The Westfields Corporate Center has attracted top-quality firms — including the federal government — to its business park in Chantilly. So it’s not surprising then that Akridge wants to join them.
And on May 20, the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) heard details of the plan from attorney Greg Riegle and Sarah Knutson, vice president, development, with Akridge.
The parcel Akridge wants to develop is directly across Stonecroft Boulevard from the Sully District Governmental Center. It’s 60-some acres at the corner of Stonecroft and Westfields Boulevard, and Riegle called it a “front door” to the Westfields Corporate Center.
“Akridge has owned this property since 2012,” he said. “It could be developed by right with well over 1 million square feet of office [space], but we’re giving it another look. We’ve been working closely with the Westfields leadership and we plan a mixture of uses, amenities to the corporate park and a quality development.”
“Akridge is a full-service, real-estate firm involved in acquisition, construction, leasing, consulting, investing, managing and developing class-A space,” said Knutson. “We have unparalleled credibility and we’ve been making bold moves for 40 years.”
She said her company is rebranding the Chantilly parcel as The Preserve at Westfields. “It’s one of the last large, undeveloped sites in Westfields,” said Knutson. However, half of Akridge’s property is environmentally sensitive land, so it’ll be left undisturbed.
“We met with the stakeholders, and they told us they wanted quality design and planning, amenities, environmental protection and conservation, and something done about the traffic congestion,” said Knutson. She said 75 percent of the development would be multifamily homes and 25 percent would be commercial and “support retail.”
She also noted that this mix of uses would result in less traffic going to and from the site than if it were developed in all office space, as Fairfax County originally envisioned it in its Comprehensive Plan. With Akridge’s proposal, she said, there’d be a 60-percent reduction in morning traffic going to the property and a 52-percent decrease in the afternoon traffic leaving it.
And to help further alleviate the already-existing traffic problem, Knutson said, “We’ve proposed moving the intersection slightly northeast for more stacking space for cars on Westfields Boulevard.”
She then presented more specifics about what Akridge currently plans to build on the site, and Riegle stressed that these are just preliminary ideas. “We’re just in the first inning of a nine-inning ballgame,” he said.
Proposed are two, five-story, residential buildings, each 335,000 square feet and having 335 units. They’re identified as C and D in the artist’s rendition, and building C would also have 5,000 square feet of retail in its base. Building D would contain, for example, a leasing center, fitness center and community room.
Buildings G and F would have 280,000 square feet total of commercial office space. Building E would be a four-story, multifamily structure of 255,000 square feet. And pad sites A and B would feature 10,000 square feet of retail uses.
“The retail is an important part of making this a complete community,” said Riegle. “And as a team, we’re very excited about it.”
The parcel also contains a lake and, said Knutson, “We want people to come see the lake, relax and eat lunch.” In addition, behind the residential area and next to the lake are planned a gazebo and a 100-seat amphitheater. And walking, jogging and hiking trails will be throughout the site.
WFCCA’s Jim Neighbors asked, “Under the best scenario, when is the earliest construction could start?” Knutson said the rezoning process is expected to take 18 months, and site-plan approval could take a year or less. So, she said, in the best-case scenario, construction could start in two years, or so.
Riegle said they hadn’t yet filed anything with Fairfax County, but hope to soon. He said there’s “a lot of interest in Westfields in seeing these amenities [come to fruition] and having some of their employees not have to commute.”
A tad skeptical, WFCCA’s Carol Hawn said similar promises were made, years ago, by the developers of The Trinity Centre in Centreville, which was touted as “Centreville’s downtown” — complete with amenities around a lake and a real place for residents to gather for events. However, she said, things never panned out there as envisioned.
“But Westfields has top-tier, Fortune 500 companies,” said Riegle. “And we’re going to draw upon their [strength and reputation] when we develop this.” Hawn then said she was looking forward to seeing more of the plan for this site, once it’s further refined.
WFCCA Land-Use Chairman Jim Katcham asked what type of retail is anticipated. Knutson didn’t have any information about the specific retail businesses that might locate on the property, but said they plan on a “white-tablecloth restaurant,” a quick-serve restaurant and a bank.
Katcham also inquired whether any of the units would be “senior-oriented.” Riegle said none would be designated as such, but that the entire residential component would be “safe and secure, anyway, with amenities that would attract empty-nesters.”
“Are the amenities for the community, too?” asked WFCCA’s Mark McConn?
“Yes,” replied Knutson. “And the restaurants would be open for lunch and dinner.”
“You aren’t going to see 60-acre parcels here, with this many units, very often,” said At-Large Planning Commissioner Jim Hart. “And, as Greg said, this is just the ‘first inning.’” Hart also said he hopes the stream on site could be restored, if necessary. “It’s a challenging site because of the way it’s chopped up,” he said. “And it’s difficult to get in and out of there.”
Knutson said there’d be right turns, in and out. But, noting the traffic congestion already at Stonecroft and Westfield boulevards, Hart said, “How that intersection functions is going to be a big question. If we start putting people there, it changes that area; we didn’t anticipate a lot of residential.”
Besides that, he said, “No one on [Route] 28 or Westfields Boulevard will see the retail. Only the people driving on Stonecroft will — and they won’t expect it. The shopping center here [on Westfields Boulevard] has struggled for 25 years, and we’ve just barely gotten another grocery store in there.”
But, replied Riegle, “Westfields needs something like this to be a complete office park. And this is one of the last chances to do it here — and do it right.”
Pleased with the overall proposal, Sully District Planning Commissioner John Litzenberger also weighed in. “I think, once Westfields gets built out in three or four years, there’ll be a demand for this retail,” he said. “Plus I’m always happy to broaden the tax base.”