Northern Virginia Land Inc., a McLean-based real estate development company, is buying what may be the most valuable tract of residentially zoned land in the McLean/Tysons Corner area.
Dwight Schar, chairman of the board of the land company, confirmed the purchase of 98 acres on the north side of the Leesburg Pike, west of Tysons Corner between Lewinsville Road and the Dulles Toll Road, which opened this week.
"We own 34 acres and are the contract owners of 64 acres," Schar said.
Because of the scarcity of open land in the Tysons/McLean area, it would be difficult to estimate the precise value of the tract. The sales price was not divulged. According to several real estate agents, the long-range value of the land or whatever is built on it will depend on the development plan.
"Schar knows what he's doing. He knows the value there," one agent said. One broker said that no matter what he does -- even if he builds only one house per acre -- it's a great investment.
The tract is west of the proposed Tysons II office/shopping center site and the high-rise Sheraton Hotel now under construction. The land is across the Leesburg Pike from the National Wildlife Federation and the Wolf Trap woods subdivision. The Dulles Access Road has long been the barrier against commercial development west along the pike -- a policy that has been reinforced by statements from Dranesville Supervisor Nancy Falck.
The 98 acres includes land that had been pushed over the past eight months by a commercial developer as a possible site for a rapid transit station at the Dulles Road-Route 7 interchange. Such a station had been the dream of developer John T. (Tim) Conlan, who envisioned a possible hookup with a Metro line or a privately financed rail line from the West Falls Church Metro station to the Tysons area and eventually to the Dulles Airport. Conlan, who sold the land to Schar, asked Fairfax County in February to amend its land-use plan to accommodate a transit station, but his efforts failed. However, Conlan has continued to push for rail service to the Tysons area.
Conlan's original proposal included approximately 150 acres, of which more than 50 acres was on the south side of the Leesburg Pike. That site, generally known as the Jarrett property, is not included in the package Schar purchased.
That proposed rail station will not be a part of whatever development plan the new owner comes up with. "We want to play our site as if there is not going to be a rail station, since there is no rail service," Schar said.
The tract provides one of the last opportunities for "creative land use in this area," one real estate agent said. Schar described the land as "beautiful, rolling and partially treed." There are only a few homes on the tract, much of which has been farmed in past years.
The land currently is zoned R-1, residential, under which Fairfax would allow construction of only one house per acre. Schar said he has no development plan for the site but that zoning changes are certain to be made. Portions of the land abut the new toll road, and any developer would be required to provide significant noise attenuation measures.
Schar agreed that the land is "prime property." He said he does not plan to sell it. "We are in this for real. We are not going away. We live in the McLean area," Schar said, referring to his partners in the deal, Stephen M. Cumbie, William A. Moran and David Flannigan.
Schar is also president of NVHomes, a building firm that currently has town houses and detached single-family developments under construction in many areas of Fairfax and suburban Maryland. Schar's companies masterminded the breakup of one of McLean's oldest and grandest estates -- Ballantrae -- on Dolley Madison Boulevard near the Central Intelligence Agency. Houses with "million-dollar plus" price tags are being built there, Schar said. Schar lives in the original Ballantrae mansion.
Northern Virginia Land and NVHomes Inc. are part of a network of building and development companies established by Schar and others in the late 1970s. Others are NVMortgage, a residential mortgage firm that often finances homes built by NVHomes, and NVCommercial Inc., a commercial construction business.
In addition, Schar has purchased an 18-acre tract at the corner of Great Falls Street and Kirby Road in the Falls Church/McLean area. Known as the Houston property, the site currently is zoned for single-family homes. A rezoning application on the property filed by another developer has been deferred by Fairfax County.