Fairfax County officials are seriously considering selling a 183-acre parcel the county owns in Fairfax Center or developing it in a joint venture with a private firm.
The land, assessed at about $60 million, is too valuable to be used only for a proposed new government center, several members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors said.
Board Chairman Jack Herrity said he supports selling the site, near Fair Oaks Mall, or developing it in a joint venture. "All kinds of things could be done," he said.
Fairfax officials have debated since the 1970s moving from the present governmental headquarters in the Massey Building in Fairfax City to the Fairfax Center site. Now, some county officials and developers say the county does not need the entire 183 acres for a government center.
Herrity blasted a county staff report that termed the move an economic necessity because of the money the county is now spending to lease office space. The report is "the biggest bunch of malarky," he said.
Several other supervisors say a joint venture might provide the county with its desired office building without cost to taxpayers.
At least three major developers have indicated an interest in buying or forming a joint venture to develop the land, which Herrity called "one of the hottest properties on the East Coast." Herrity said he has "an offer from a prominent developer" with whom he is "starting preliminary discussions." He did not name the developer.
A representative of Property Company of America, an Oklahoma-based development firm with offices at Tysons Corner, recently met with Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert to discuss joint ventures between private developers and the county on the 183-acre site. Property Company of America currently is building an eight-story office building known as Fair Oaks Plaza near the county-owned land.
Supervisor Elaine McConnell, who was first approached by that company with a proposal for a joint venture, said, "It is a marvelous idea." She arranged the meeting between Lambert and Mike Windsor, a partner in Property Company of America.
Centennial Development Corp., based in Tysons Corner, also is interested in the joint-venture idea. Centennial in March won approval to build a $325 million, 80-acre development to be known as Centennial Gateway, northwest of the county property.
Centennial President Pete Scarmado said a joint venture between the county and a group of developers would "be a tremendous thing. We would be interested in exploring the opportunities at that location. The idea presents the opportunity to create something very interesting and exciting in Fairfax."
Windsor said his company would not "want to take on the whole burden of building the government center. But if we can get something started, from a businessman's point of view it can be done."
Hazel-Peterson Cos., which is building the $460 million Fair Lakes development, is not involved in talks about a joint venture on the county-owned land, according to its president, James Todd. Fair Lakes is the largest project planned in the Fairfax Center area.
"If the economics prove that it makes sense, then we think moving the Fairfax government center to the Fairfax Center area would be a fine thing to do," Todd said. "It is obvious that we have made a major commitment here."
Supervisor Martha Pennino, long a supporter of moving the county offices to Fairfax Center, told fellow board members last week that the planned move of the government operations to the area has lured many of the developments now being built.
However, several real estate brokers said the Fairfax Center area will continue to be attractive to developers with or without the new government center.
The Board of Supervisors soon will make a decision on putting a request for the government center funds on the ballot in a November bond referendum June 3.
Herrity said the board will not vote to put it to referendum -- "not in a million years."
Supervisor Nancy Falck said that even though "the staff is shoe-horned in" at the Massey building, "it is hard to find a constituency" to support the cost of a new government center. She said she thought a deal could be reached giving a developer part of the site in exchange for building office facilities for the county.
McConnell last week told the board, "We have options in the private sector. We could do this if we put our minds together."
She said she supports a joint venture rather than sale of the property, which would leave the county government in its present location.
"We would be nearsighted to sell the site and not have a building. We have major traffic and office space problems" at the Massey building, she said.