Speeches have been made, shovelfuls of dirt have been flung and construction is now underway for The Lodge at Autumn Willow in Chantilly. But it’s not just any residential project – it’ll provide high-quality apartments for senior citizens at prices they can afford.
There’ll be 150 independent-living units, and 15 will be ADA-compliant. Eleven percent of the residents will be seniors at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI); 14 percent, at or below 50 percent AMI; and 75 percent of them, at or below 60 percent AMI.
Nestled in a forest near the intersection of Stringfellow Road and Autumn Willow Drive, it’s a partnership of entities including the Fairfax County Redevelopment Housing Authority (FCRHA), Michaels Development Co. and Virginia Housing. The groundbreaking was July 20, and construction should take some eight months.
“I’m passionate about ensuring that we have a community where older adults are able to thrive and age in place,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) during the groundbreaking ceremony. “Tackling affordability is a key part of achieving that end. The people who built our community and raised their families here deserve to stay in our community as they age.”
Calling this project “a great step forward” in protecting older adults vulnerable to the ever-increasing cost of living in Fairfax County, he said it’ll serve lower-income seniors who don’t have other options. “Government can’t solve every problem,” said Herrity. “But through partnerships with the community, and private partnerships like this one, we can make greater strides than we could on our own.”
Michaels Development will manage the property, and the FCRHA will hold the lease for 99 years – guaranteeing the preservation of affordable housing at The Lodge at Autumn Willow for nearly the next century. FCRHA has also awarded eight project-based vouchers, helping ensure that the property will support households with a range of income levels.
Apartments will be available in a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, and the outdoor amenity spaces will include a serenity studio, firepit and recreation area. Onsite walkways on this wooded, 20.5-acre site will connect the residents to county trails and the Little Rocky Run stream bed. In addition, new widened sidewalks will run along Autumn Willow near the entrance. The property will have 135 parking spaces and is also located near two fire stations, a hospital and shopping areas.
A basement-level gathering spot is planned at the end of each residential wing, and an accessible ramp leading to the front entrance will be reached via a turn-around loop off Autumn Willow Drive. A canopy in front of the two-story, brick-and-siding building will provide a covered walkway for drop-offs and pickups in the arrival plaza.
The outdoor courtyard between the building’s two wings will contain a reading cove and recreation zone for both active and passive recreation and relaxation. And an existing trail running west to east will be maintained in place, enabling residents to walk to nearby retail stores.
Subject to VDOT approval, a high-visibility crosswalk will link The Lodge’s entrance and Stringfellow Park. And approximately five acres of undisturbed land will be placed in a conservation easement. This project’s primary design objective was to preserve the trees and the wooded character of the site as much as possible.
Before the groundbreaking, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said, “We want the people who grew roots in Fairfax County to stay in their community of choice. This development is special because it provides an affordable place for older adults to keep writing our local history.”
As chair of the Board’s Older Adults Committee, Herrity then shared some data from its SHAPE the Future of Aging – a strategic plan to make this county a better place for senior citizens to live safely, independently and with dignity. The letters stand for: Services for older adults and family caregivers, Housing and neighborhood supports, Access to mobility options, Personal wellbeing, and Economic stability and planning.
“Our survey found that, while 92 percent of respondents said Fairfax County is an excellent or good place to live, only about half said it’s an excellent or good place to retire,” said Herrity. “Only 16 percent of participants rated the cost of living here as good, ranking Fairfax County at 258th out of 279 comparable communities for older adults’ cost of living.
“We ranked dead last out of 84 comparable communities when it came to likelihood of remaining in your community throughout retirement. And more than one-third of respondents indicated housing is a challenge – even while over 80 percent of respondents owned a home.”
Herrity said this information illustrates the difficulty of aging here and the need to continue looking at creative housing solutions, such as The Lodge at Autumn Willow. And, he added, “At my request, the Commission on Aging is in the process of considering how home-sharing models and potential homesteading policies could improve affordability and serve additional needs for older adults.”
Making The Lodge at Autumn Willow possible is $8.7 million in local funding through Housing Blueprint loans. Financing also includes private equity raised via Low Income Housing Tax Credits allocated by Virginia Housing which provided permanent loans for the project.
Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development is contributing Housing Innovations in Energy Efficiency funding, National Housing Trust Funds and Virginia Housing Trust Funds. Additional financing has been provided by Truist and Berkadia.
“We’re committed to bringing together experts in the development, real estate, environmental engineering and finance industries to create affordable housing opportunities for our community,” said FCRHA Chairman Melissa McKenna. “This is especially critical for older adults, who deserve to live and thrive in their desired community.”