|The plan for revitalizing Graham Park Plaza. Arlington Boulevard is across the top. The white box at the bottom right is Giant.|
Federal Realty Investment Trust, the owner of the shopping center on Arlington Boulevard (formerly known as Loehmann’s Plaza) wants to demolish the western half of the property and build a mixed-use project consisting of a seven-story building with 250 apartment units and retail on the first floor.
Bernard Suchicital, a planner with the Fairfax County Department of Planning Zoning, told the MDLUC “we’re not opposed to a change of use” for the property. He said the planning staff would like to see the project retain community-serving retail, be compatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood, be of appropriate scale, and be accessible to pedestrians.
A staff report on the project is scheduled to be published Oct. 6. The Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing on the plan amendment is set for Oct. 20, and a Board of Supervisors hearing would be Dec. 6. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors would then hold hearings on rezoning in 2017.
The project could generate anywhere from 19 to 64 school-age children, Suchicital said, depending on its actual design. If it were built within five years, it would not have a negative impact on the elementary school serving that area, as Westlawn is under capacity. But it would lead to overcrowding at Luther Jackson Middle School and Falls Church High School.
An analysis by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation found the new development would generate a small increase in vehicle trips in the morning and a small decrease in afternoon trips.
David Gill, an attorney with McGuire Woods who is representing Federal Realty, told the MDLUC the company wants to redevelop Graham Park Plaza because “there are number of challenges at that site.”
Stein Mart, which moved into the spot that became vacant when Loehmann’s went bankrupt, wants to move to a more profitable location, he said. LA Fitness closed over a year ago, and the Bova furniture store and CVS are not expected to renew their leases.
The 1960s-era shopping center is obsolete, as it is centered on the automobile and is not welcoming to pedestrians, said Allison Williams, development manager at Federal Realty. The retail spaces are too deep and have low ceilings, which makes them hard to lease.
Giant has a long-term lease – it doesn’t expire until the 2060s – and controls about a third of the property, so that area won’t be developed. Williams said.
Federal Realty would eliminate about 60,000-80,000 square feet of retail. The apartments would range from studios to units with two bedrooms plus a den. The plans call for a parking garage and a gather space that Williams calls an “outdoor living room” with benches, art, and landscaping; and an active, pedestrian-friendly environment.
At the MDLUC meeting, several nearby residents brought up concerns about traffic congestion on Graham Road and the service road along Arlington Boulevard. More details about access, the project design, and other issues will be addressed during the rezoning process.