0
Votes

A Beacon of Things to Come on Richmond Highway

Mixed-use development may signal a sea change on Richmond Highway.

Richmond Highway elevation.

Richmond Highway elevation.

A Changing Corridor

  • The Grande at Huntington: A partnership has been formed between local developer Capital Investment Advisors and the current property owner to redevelop the Adler Shopping Center at 6220 Richmond Highway. The development team has created preliminary plans for the Grande at Huntington, a 300-unit mid-rise residential development with 30,000 SF of ground level retail. The developers have submitted a revised Comprehensive Plan amendment and rezoning for this development and it is now under review by Fairfax County, with Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors votes scheduled for March 2013.

  • VSE building: MRP Realty plans to tear down a 40-year old office building located immediately adjacent to the Huntington Metro on Huntington Avenue and replace it with a 390-unit, 4-6-story multifamily residential development, a 15-story, 260,000 square foot office and retail building plus a 200-room hotel. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the rezoning on Nov. 20, 2012.

  • Huntington and Biscayne Avenue: A&R Development is pursuing regulatory approvals for a 173-unit mixed-use redevelopment project at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Biscayne Drive, adjacent to the Huntington Metro station. The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority approved a change to the Huntington Conservation Plan at its June 2012 meeting, and the Board of Supervisors approved the amendment in September 2012. A&R is now actively working on a rezoning application and plans to submit it in the next few months.

  • Huntington Club Condominiums: Potential redevelopment of this site would be a mixed-use development containing 1,200 to 1,800 housing units, 1 million square feet of office space and 127,000 square feet of retail space. The Board of Supervisors vote is scheduled for Feb. 26, 2013. If the plan amendment is granted, the Huntington Club Condominium Association intends to issue request for proposals to find a developer to obtain a rezoning and execute the project.

  • Cityside Huntington Metro: The Carlyle Group is proposing the addition of a five-story, 145-unit infill apartment building on the site of the existing Cityside (formerly Belle Haven Towers) property. The development would replace a surface parking lot with an underground parking structure for the entire property, and the new building would be constructed on top of the parking deck. Carlyle presented its preliminary plans to the Mount Vernon Council in July 2012 and to the SFDC Board of Directors in September 2012, and plans to submit a rezoning application in the near future.

  • Huntington Metro: Insight Property Group has obtained a rezoning from Fairfax County and is readying to begin construction on a 240-unit luxury apartment building on a 3.38-acre site at the corner of North Kings Highway and School Street. The site was replanned as part of the comprehensive plan amendment for the Penn Daw area approved by the county earlier in the year. Completion of this $52 million development is anticipated for mid-2014.

  • Penn Daw Plaza: Combined Properties, the longtime owner of Penn Daw Plaza, has announced plans to demolish the 50-year old shopping center and replace it with a mixed-use development including 490 apartments and ground level retail. A rezoning application is expected in early 2013.

It’s the highest spot in Fairfax County, and it may also be a fulcrum for Richmond Highway. The Beacon of Groveton, which is celebrating its grand opening this week, may signify a new direction for development in Mount Vernon. Instead of merely wishing for mixed-use urban development, the Route 1 corridor finally has its own gleaming example. And it’s the first of many to come, with a handful of new developments ready to take up where the Beacon led the way.

“It’s the phoenix rising up from the depths,” said Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland. “The fact that it was done in a market that was certainly slow, I think it took courage and some guts for them to move forward.”

When the high-end residential units at the Heights at Groveton open this week, Richmond Highway will begin a new chapter in its long history. A corridor long known for big-box stores and vast parking lots will now feature a new landmark building, one that’s already dominating the skyline where Memorial Street crosses the highway. The building has 290 units that rent for $2.75 to $3 a square foot, with studio apartments starting at $1,600 a month. About 30 of the units are already occupied, and 30 more already have a contract. The building also has 10,000 square feet of retail space, none of which has been rented yet.

“That’s actually pretty common for these mixed-use developments,” said David Ben, marketing director for the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation. “The way that things typically work is that the retail will follow the residential, and it didn’t used to be that way. This has changed in the last three or four years.”

A lot is riding on the Beacon of Groveton. As the first-of-its-kind urban development, developer Redbrick Partners is hoping that the market for high-end rental properties will emerge in suburban Groveton. The transformation from suburban sprawl to urban scale is one that many people hope will be a sign of things to come along the corridor. A number of projects are in the works, including several new mixed-use developments that will change the landscape of Mount Vernon in the coming years.

“We thought there was a definite need.” Tim Mulcahy, president of Redbrick Development. “We saw what was happening, and we felt that this was an excellent opportunity for us to take advantage of the benefits along the Richmond Highway corridor.”

ONE VISION OF THE FUTURE includes an expanded Yellow Line, moving south beyond Huntington along Richmond Highway through Mount Vernon. That may seem like a distant dream right now, considering the money and politics caught up in building the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport. But Del. Scott Surovell (D-44) has been pushing the issue for years. Although he acknowledges the discussion would take about 15 or 20 years, Surovell says Richmond Highway offers a realistic opportunity to expand the Metro line south.

“It’s not a pipe dream,” said Surovell. “This is prime real estate, and if it had proper infrastructure serving it we would have the same kind of development as Arlington and Alexandria and Tysons Corner.”

Surovell says that the Richmond Highway corridor offers a perfect storm for Metro expansion. Commercial real estate in Cameron Run leases for $5 more per square foot than in Tysons Corner, an indication that demand can support increased development. Whereas the Silver Line is 20 miles long, extending the Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir would only require about eight miles of track. And because of the recent expansion at the fort, more people work there than the Pentagon. There’s even a collapsible wall at the Huntington station.

“It makes much more sense to extend a Metro line [here] than it does to extend it way out into the suburbs like the Silver Line did,” said Surovell. “But we don’t have the infrastructure, and that’s why we need to extend it.”

THE DREAM OF CONVERTING Richmond Highway to a mixed-use urban corridor has been a goal for decades, although the economics have been elusive. Now, after many years of hopes and dreams, the vision is finally poised to become a reality. But some say progress has been too slow.

“Development and revitalization that has taken place on this corridor has lagged behind,” said businessman Kahan Dhillon. “Look at Tysons and Merrifield and Springfield. They’ve all been revitalizing while we’ve been writing studies.”