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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Heritage Mall redevelopment project outlined at community meeting

 An illustration of the townhouse development planned for the rear of Heritage Mall. [Madison Homes]
Officials from the Webb Cos. and Madison Homes described their plans for 68 townhouses behind Heritage Mall in Annandale at a community meeting March 2.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing May 25 on an amendment to  the county’s Comprehensive Plan to allow the project to go forward. A Board of Supervisors hearing would be June 21.

The 7-Eleven on Rectory Lane would be demolished.
The current comprehensive plan was approved 10 years ago and needs to be revised because it calls for a mixed-use development with 200 apartments. That level of development is no longer feasible, said Braddock Supervisor John Cook. Once the plan is amended, the developers would seek a rezoning of the 11-acre property, which is currently zoned C-6, for neighborhood-serving retail.

The area behind the shopping center, is “mostly underutilized and is an eyesore,” said Elizabeth Baker, a senior land use planner with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh PC. What’s there now is a large parking lot that never fills up, an open grassy area, the remains of a Citgo station that has been demolished, and a 7-Eleven that will be torn down. Webb Cos. will sell that part of the property to Madison Homes.

The comprehensive plan calls for the project to include a “community resource center.” That could be something like a senior center or similar facility and would be incorporated into the existing retail center, Baker said. A small area at the rear of the property, where the service station was, would be set aside for recreation and could have sport court and picnic tables or similar facilities.

The new homes would be about 1,600 to 2,000 square feet. They would sell at market rate prices, which would most likely start in the $400,000s, said Madison Homes Vice President Andrew Rosenberger. The homes would have two-car garages; some would would have garages in the front; others would have them in the rear. Construction could start in early 2018.

Eight of the units will meet Fairfax County’s requirements for affordability, Baker added. Those homes would be smaller and would have one-car garages.

The development will bring several benefits to the community, Baker said. It will attract new investment, and the developers will improve landscaping, pedestrian connectivity, lighting and stormwater management.

Improvements in the works for Heritage Mall.

The Webb Cos. also plan to make some improvements to the existing shopping center, said Jon Farmello, the company’s president and chief operating officer. That could include an area for outdoor dining and new paving, seating, and lighting.

He said the company poured about $4 million into improvements over the past few years, including new awnings and walls to screen the utilities at the rear. The area near the Hmart has been renovated, and a new   Kumon education center and Simply Prepaid phone store opened there recently, joining Kung Fu Tea, and the Pho Anh Duong restaurant.

Local residents expressed concerns about parking, traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and stormwater management.

According to Rosenberger, a preliminary traffic analysis found the new development would generate 43 cars per hour during peak hours, while the 200-unit development, which could have been built by right, would have generated 350 cars per hour during peak periods.

That didn’t convince some of the residents, who argued that traffic congestion is heavy during weekends and in the afternoon when Annandale High School lets out. They also argued that parking is insufficient and will result in overflow parking on neighborhood streets.

Farmelo said the plans to improve the retail center will include a reconfiguration of the front  parking lot to improve capacity. 

Baker said the impact on traffic, schools, and other public facilities will be examined more closely during the comprehensive review process.

According to Cook, there’s some urgency in moving the project forward, at least before July 1, when an  anti-proffer bill passed by the General Assembly would take effect – unless the governor vetoes it.

That bill would prevent localities from requiring developers to contribute proffer money for schools, road improvements, and parks. “This project is a classic example of why that bill is a bad thing,” Cook said. It was  proposed “because other jurisdictions abused proffers and asked for ridiculous things. The system works in Fairfax. Proffers are critical for our ability to get developers to contribute to things that benefit the community.”


EV said...

The Annandale town center area has a strong pedestrian scene for a suburban area. Many people are walking and taking the bus out to other Fairfax locales as well as into the city. In addition, I see people traveling to, through and from Annandale by bicycle. However, we are a car town and even have the misfortune of being a cut-through for people living south of Braddock Road.

As an Annandale homeowner, if this and future redevelopment can increase and facilitate the movement of people sans vehicle while at the same time maintain or decrease vehicular usage throughout our neighborhoods then the proposed development is a win for all of us. Fewer cars means less noise and less pollution. Most current residents will not object to the redevelopment of an eyesore if improved pedestrian and bike facilities give them a choice to safely travel to and from destinations with the added benefit of not increasing traffic overall.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why anyone would pay those prices to live in that spot.

Anonymous said...

It is not about living in that spot, it is about selling and buying in that spot. Monthly mortgage plus expenses: $2000. Three tenants at $1500 a month (60% affordable housing) each + no effective code compliance: $4500 a month. 4 tenants: $6000 a month, profit $4000 a month. Annual profit $48,000 a year. The real question is why everyone wouldn’t want to pay those prices to buy in that spot.

Anonymous said...

The going rate for an "off-lease" sublet bedroom in the nearby apartments is closer to $750/mo, than $1500/mo. (I know because I work with this population.) So cut your numbers in half and see if they still add up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Yes, the off-lease, i.e. illegal, sublet bedrooms in the nearby apartment could very well go for $750 a month and I should have included the that fact as well as the fact that the two car garages will also probably be sublet as apartments which will make them not available for vehicles. But only getting $24,000 per year profit, or only $12,000 profit a year for that matter, plus accrued equity and appreciation, does not change the fact that this development will definitely become low income, transient, essentially commercial, boarding houses, not owner/occupied residential dwellings and not the mixed use that the Plan anticipated and that is why this out-of-turn amendment is necessary and sadly misrepresented by the promoter. The 200 units were never available to the developer in the real world, only in the make-believe world of land use professionals who care nothing for neighborhoods in Mason District or truth for that matter. Who is letting this happen to us?

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