So far, it’s just an idea. But at a recent work session, members of the Fairfax City Council heard details of a proposal by Wawa Inc. to replace the Rodeway Inn on Fairfax Boulevard with a grocery store and gas pumps.
The one-story, 55-unit motel was built in 1953, and the 1.8-acre site is at 9700 Fairfax Blvd., on the west side of Spring Street. Wawa purchased the property and now proposes constructing a 6,049-square-foot grocery store and six fuel stations – 12 pumps total – under a covered canopy.
Wawa also presented a design concept for discussion. It requested the work session to receive initial feedback from the Council before proceeding with an official application. The property is entirely surrounded by commercial uses, and Wawa proposes right turns in and out of the site to Fairfax Boulevard, with full access to and from Spring Street.
“A special-use permit is required for fuel stations in the (CR) Commercial Retail District,” said City Senior Planner Albert Frederick. “Rezoning a portion of the property from (IH) Industrial Heavy to Commercial Retail may also be required because IH doesn’t permit grocery stores.”
Councilman Sang Yi asked how many gas stations are already in the vicinity, and Frederick estimated four. “Is there any deleterious effect on the traffic by adding a gas station?” asked Yi. Frederick said a gas station would attract passing motorists, but the City would require a traffic study as part of the design process.
Councilman Michael DeMarco asked about the legal difference between a convenience store and a grocery store. Brooke Hardin, director of Community Development and Planning, explained that, according to the City zoning ordinance, “Anything over 5,000 square feet is considered a grocery store.” He also said that, instead of retaining the site’s current split zoning of both CR and IH, it should all be rezoned to CR.
Councilwoman Jennifer Passey wanted to know what the City’s Planning Commission thought about the proposal. “They were generally in favor of it,” replied Frederick. “But they wanted to know the number of [vehicle] trips it would generate in and out.”
REPRESENTING THE APPLICANT, attorney Bob Brant said he grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, where “There’s virtually a Wawa in every city. Here, there’s one in Chantilly, Sterling and Manassas, and Wawa is excited to be in the City – and on Fairfax Boulevard.”
Calling Wawa a “high-quality establishment,” he said it offers a full menu of soups, sandwiches and other food items. And he noted that it and the gas pumps would be oriented toward Fairfax Boulevard and one of the current curb cuts there would be closed.
“One of the great benefits of this location is that a significant amount of traffic is already there, and Wawa hopes to capture it,” said Brant. “There are approximately 35,000 total vehicle trips/day on Fairfax Boulevard today, and this would result in a relatively minor increase.”
He said about 1,280 new trips/day are expected. Of that total, about 134 trips – some 65 cars – would be during the a.m. peak hours; about 97 trips – some 50 cars – would be during the p.m. peak hours. “We anticipate about 80 percent of the total customers will come from cars already out there on the road,” said Brant.
Furthermore, he told the Council, “This brings a commercial-redevelopment opportunity to the City, and we’re looking forward to coming before you again in the near future with a formal application.”
“I’m excited about the use,” said Councilman Jon Stehle. “And having an access point on Spring Street and a right-in, right-out makes a lot of sense.”
Passey said she, too, is concerned about the traffic, but Councilwoman So Lim said, “I think this would be a great addition to the City.”
Yi asked about Wawa’s build-to-suit program, and Jeb Bell, Wawa’s real-estate engineer, said the company has different agreements with different developers. “So would this one be tweaked for Fairfax City?” asked Yi. And Bell said the changes are usually minor and involve things such as bricks or building color.
Yi also wanted to know how many employees would work there and what are Wawa’s average gross revenues. Bell said there’d be 40-50 employees, with about nine of them being hourly managers. Regarding financials, he said, “We don’t publish that [information], but it’s substantially more than a Rodeway Inn.”
DeMarco asked if Wawa expected business only from westbound traffic, but Brant said it anticipated having customers from both directions. DeMarco also noted that, “It would be kind of cool if this had something for bicyclers and walkers to congregate there.” He asked, as well, if this could be an electric car charging site, and Bell said Wawa partners with Tesla on it and “Tesla would probably be interested.”
COUNCILWOMAN Janice Miller asked if the rear and sides of the property would be lighted and what type of lights would be used. “Yes, there’ll be full, LED lighting, but it’ll be dark-sky compliant,” answered Bell. “The entire site will be well-lit – especially underneath the canopy. But it’ll be less lit in the perimeter, so as not to interfere with the neighbors.”
Miller also asked about sidewalks on Spring Street. Brant said things are still in the design process, but “We’ve heard it would be a good idea to enhance the ability of nearby residents to walk and bike to that site.”
Mayor David Meyer asked if the Wawa would be open 24 hours/day, and Brant said yes. He also said five tanks would feed the 12 gas pumps. “We order fuel on demand and usually receive 10-12 deliveries/week, depending on the volume [of gasoline sold there],” added Brant.
Yi asked about Wawa’s safety record, and Brant said the company ranks “among the highest in security and safety.” Yi then said, “I’m impressed by Wawa’s stellar reputation and by the fact that it’ll bring in 40-50 jobs, and I’m looking forward to having it here.”