The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to facilitate the redevelopment of Graham Park Plaza, an aging shopping center on Route 50.
The owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, wants to transform the 19.5-acre western part of the retail center, formerly known as Loehmann’s Plaza, into a mixed-use development with 248 multifamily housing units, neighborhood-serving retail, and structured parking.
Staff from the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) recommends approval, as does the Mason District Land Use Committee. The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Dec. 6.
Bernard Suchicital of the DPZ told the Planning Commission Oct. 20 the project would encourage more revitalization and reinvestment in the area. Noting that traffic congestion is a big problem, he said options for addressing traffic flow and access to the site need to be explored.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will consider improvements during the rezoning stage, such as lane alignments, changes to the service road along Route 50, striping, pedestrian access, and ingress and egress to the shopping center.
Federal Realty filed the application before July 1 when a new state law took effect restricting local governments from seeking proffers from developers. As a result, the company is interested in submitting proffers that could be used for traffic improvements, said land use attorney David Gill of McGuire Woods.
During the rezoning process, Federal Realty plans to propose a central spine road in the property perpendicular to Route 50 to make it easier to make a left turn onto Route 50, said Allison Williams, development manager at the company. The plans also call for an open, green gathering space for the community within the parking area.
When we looked at what Graham Park Plaza is like today, Williams said, we found, “it’s missing a heart. That’s what we hope to accomplish with this development.”
“Overall, we welcome the changes,” said Sandy McConville, speaking on behalf of the Raymondale Civic Association. She lauded the prospect of a more vibrant, more pedestrian-friendly retail center but expressed concerns about traffic flow, particularly at the eastern end of the property, by the Giant, which is not part of the redevelopment proposal.
A couple of residents of Broyhill Park raised issues about traffic congestion on Route 50 and Graham Road, the difficulty of getting into and out of the shopping center, the impact more apartments would have on school overcrowding, and the prospect of a seven-story building looming over single-family homes.
“We like the new stores but do not like the apartments,” said one Broyhill Park resident. “They will have a negative impact on our quality of life in a semi-secluded older neighborhood.”