Residents Weigh In On Paul VI Redevelopment in Fairfax

Residents Weigh In On Paul VI Redevelopment in Fairfax

Say it expands housing options, but increases traffic and density.

An aerial view of the current Paul VI High School site.

An aerial view of the current Paul VI High School site.

Before the Fairfax City Council approved IDI’s proposal to dramatically transform the Paul VI site, local residents weighed in on the project. And whether they opposed or supported it, speakers on both sides were equally earnest about their positions.

Noting an attractive and successful project IDI has already built in Fairfax, Jim Wyckoff said, “The Enclave is a prominent and praised example of what this developer can do for this City. This application should be approved.”

Jeff White, commander of American Legion Post 177, near the site, was pleased with the construction-management plan. And, he said, “The Fairfax Little League is happy about the parking for Pat Rodio Park and Chilcott Field.”

Georgia Graves, president of the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia – an independent nonprofit representing businesses and individuals – also spoke in support. “This will be a unique opportunity for Fairfax to bring a vibrant blend of commercial and residential activities, and a high-quality development, to the City,” she said. “And this project would help meet the City’s future housing needs and support its businesses.”

Also encouraging approval was Rand Gaber, saying it “can bring quality homes to senior citizens who want to stay in the City.”

Representing Fairfax City Citizens for Smarter Growth, Betsy Bicknell said, “IDI’s plan has a strong network of parks and trails, plus walking and biking improvements. There’s a footpath connecting east Cedar Avenue with Panther Place and west Cedar Avenue. And it’ll expand housing options, including smaller condos.”

But, she added, “The lack of rentals and affordable-housing units puts housing here out of reach of many people. We’re also concerned about the removal of all the trees on the John C. Wood property.”

However, said Jim Engelhardt, “IDI listened to the neighbors and made major revisions to its plan. This [site] is the point of entry into the City and needs to be of high aesthetics and inviting – and this plan meets that [requirement]. I recommend approval.”

While supporting “higher-density housing in the center of the City,” Judy Fraser was concerned about the environmental impact. “The Resource Protection Area is important to the stream health,” she said. “There should be a better commitment to reducing stormwater impact.”

Lee Hubbard said, “I like the idea of saving my old high school, and the original portion will be retained, so approve this project.”

But McLean Avenue resident Jane McMorrow said, “The density is overwhelming. It’s a small piece of property to put this many homes on. It’s a beautiful project, but there are also issues with traffic.”

Agreeing with her on the high density, Cedar Avenue’s Dave Gessert said, “This project is in my front yard, and I haven’t seen a traffic study. It’s far too compact and would be difficult for the residents to have a sense of community.”

“I’m opposed to it,” said Mike Fabio. “It’s not in keeping with the community around it, and the building heights will overshadow the nearby park and ballfields. I think retaining the school is a mistake because it’s an impediment to establishing the needed commercial front. You can’t regulate the live/work homes, and affordable housing is lacking. Vote no to ensure that future generations enjoy a livable Fairfax City.”

But Chris Dominick, of nearby Walnut Street, likes the relationship between Cecchi and the City and said he’s confident about the project. Cedar Avenue’s Steve Oldfield also supports it, but worried it could worsen traffic. And Fairfax Heights Civic Assn. President John Norce liked IDI’s willingness to work with the City.

However, Ellen Thompson said a.m. and p.m. school traffic can’t be compared to daily commuting. And, she warned the Council, “There’s not going to be any quality of life if you keep dumping traffic in [the City].”

Julie Knight, of nearby Keith Avenue, decried the “lack of appropriate transitions to existing neighborhoods. I’m disturbed by the total disregard for how this fits into our neighborhood.” And Aaron Hopkins, who lives next to the creek on Center Street, wondered how the project would affect that creek.

“The fact that this property will be clearcut of all the trees sickens me,” said Kate Fogerty Atkinson of the HFNA neighborhood. “It’ll be a great wall of buildings against the park, which takes away the charm of the neighborhood. And who’ll preserve the Paul VI building? There are so many unanswered questions.”

“I’m appalled to think of a project like this going forward in the City,” agreed Rich Farrenton. “It would create horrendous traffic and disturb a floodplain. Vote no and preserve the feel of that neighborhood.”

But Keith Avenue’s Joyce Cusack spoke in favor, saying, “The majority of families in our neighborhood support this proposal.” Added Rick Dixon: “Approve the application; IDI is a class-act developer.”