|Halifax Office Park|
The main project under consideration at the task force’s Oct. 22 meeting is a proposal to convert the aging Halifax Office Park on Cherokee Avenue to a residential use.
The owners of the two office buildings, Nazir Bhagat, a member of the Lincolnia task force, and Rory Schick, are having an increasingly difficult time attracting tenants, as the market for office space in older buildings is drying up throughout Northern Virginia. Unless the property can be converted to condos, they say, the buildings could end up being foreclosed and abandoned.
Bhagat and Schick have proposed totally gutting the buildings and adding three stories to each to create up to 130 high-end condos aimed at professionals interested in living and working at home.
A key question raised at the meeting was the impact on traffic. Bhagat counted cars on Cherokee Avenue for three days and found traffic moving at a reasonable rate during peak hours with no backups.
A preliminary analysis by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation found similar results and noted that a residential use of the property would generate fewer trips than the current office building. FCDOT will do a more thorough traffic study if the project proceeds.
Another concern mentioned by residents is overflow parking on neighborhood streets. Bhagat noted that the Halifax property has more parking spaces than required and gives neighbors permission to park there.
He also told the task force a high-end condo would raise property values for the surrounding community, while a deteriorating, nearly empty office building would have a negative impact on the area.
Fairfax County Planning and Development staff will draft recommendations on the Halifax proposal and present them at a future meeting of the task force, said county land use planner Michael Burton. Meanwhile. Bhagat and Schick plan to gather more feedback from the public at community association meetings.
“Additional discussion is needed,” Burton said. “The entire community needs to weigh in.”
This is far from a done deal. If the task force and staff agree to pursue this proposal, there would be a lengthy planning process, and the project would have to be approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.
The other proposal submitted to the Lincolnia task force, Plaza 500, is much bigger and more complex, and will be reviewed separately at a later date, Burton said. That project calls for a large mixed-use project – with townhouses, apartments, and retail – on the Smoot Lumber property on Edsall Road.
Meanwhile, the Planning and Zoning staff are drafting language for a comprehensive plan amendment for the Lincolnia CBC, while FCDOT is conducting an analysis of a traffic improvement plan to relieve congestion around the Little River/N. Beauregard intersection.
The CBC includes an “opportunity area” on the site of Landmark Plaza that would facilitate HHH Landmark Inc.’s long-term plan to transform the aging retail center into a higher-density mixed-use development.
The proposed plan amendment for the opportunity area calls for 373,100 square feet of retail (a decrease from the current level of 586,300 square feet), 142,400 square feet of office uses (an increase from the current 98,400), and 1.468 million square feet of residential uses. There is currently no housing in this space.
The maximum building height would be 12 stories. The tallest buildings would be closest to Interstate 395. Buildings in the middle of the property would be five to seven stories, and those closest to single-family homes would be no more than four stories.
Once the task force approves an amendment to the Lincolnia Comprehensive Plan, it would be presented to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. Actual redevelopment, which would be coordinated with traffic improvements, is still years away.