Fairfax City Renovation On Track to Finish Jan. 1
Restaurants to Be Old Town Village's 1st Tenants

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 19, 2007

The makeover of Fairfax City -- featuring a new shopping center, library, City Hall and police headquarters -- should be completed by Jan. 1, and city officials are revealing that a bevy of restaurants will be the first tenants in the project's centerpiece, the Old Town Village shops.

The shopping center along North Street will have two sandwich shops, Panera Bread and Potbelly Sandwich Works, the pizza-Italian restaurant Mamma Lucia and a smaller version of the Tex-Mex restaurant Austin Grill, said Steve Shelesky, a managing director of Trammell Crow, the project's developer. HSBC bank is also scheduled to move in, and the first tenants should be open by early October, Shelesky said.

Across the street, in the lot next to Firehouse Grill, a Foster's Grille hamburger shop and a Pacers running specialty store will be on the first floor. The second floor of both projects will be occupied by offices. About 25 percent is sold, 55 percent is in negotiations, and interest rose sharply once the buildings neared completion, Shelesky said.

In the Old Town Village shops, there will be no large anchor tenant, such as a grocery or bookstore, Shelesky said. Developers are looking instead at luring an upscale restaurant to the center. A grocery or bookstore would have required 20,000 square feet, mostly underground, he said, and when none could be signed, the underground space was not built.

An aboveground garage behind the shops will have 540 parking spaces, with 30 more behind the building with Foster's and Pacers, Shelesky said. That building will probably open around Jan. 1, he said.

A block up North Street, at Old Lee Highway, the new Fairfax City library is nearing completion.

Mayor Robert F. Lederer said that the old library on Chain Bridge Road is slated to close in November and that the library hopes to stage a parade of patrons from the old site to the new. Each patron will carry a book and place it on the shelves of the new library, Lederer said. The new library should open around Jan. 1.

"The downtown finally is going to be a reality," said Lederer, who shepherded the project through the city's political process and downsized a much larger, earlier proposal. "By January 1st, we're hopefully going to have a vital destination in Old Town Fairfax."

Heading down Old Lee Highway, the city's police department moved into its new headquarters in December. Its old home, a former elementary school, soon became host to the city's commissioner of revenue and treasurer offices, while City Hall was being renovated. The city's public works and recreation departments also were temporarily exiled, to the Green Acres Community Center.

Those departments all will return to City Hall, either to the new annex opened in December or the refurbished original building, scheduled to open in September, Lederer said.

In October, the renovated Fairfax High School on Old Lee Highway will be dedicated, he said. Lanier Middle School's renovations are scheduled to be finished next year.

"It's been quite a couple of years," Lederer said.

Another addition to Fairfax's downtown is rising behind Lederer's Sweet Life Cafe ice cream shop on Chain Bridge Road. It's the home of the National Pest Management Association, a trade group for which Lederer is the executive director. So his workplaces, other than City Hall, will be within yards of each other.

The construction equipment won't disappear from the city, however. Once the old library closes, it will be torn down, and upscale apartments are planned for the site. An expansion of the sprawling courthouse at Chain Bridge and Judicial Drive, originally slated for completion in April, is months behind schedule and is now expected to be completed in December.

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