The Hazel-Peterson Cos. this week asked Fairfax County to approve a 34-story office building as part of its development of a 61-acre tract adjacent to the Vienna Metro station site.
The tower would be the tallest office building in Fairfax if approved. The proposed mixed-use development will be known as the Virginia Center. The development plan calls for a 29-story and a 26-story office building facing each other across a wooded, garden plaza leading from the transit station to nearby Nottoway Park. The Metro station is scheduled to open in 1986.
The proposal includes two 15-story residential buildings, a 19-story hotel and a six-story hotel fronting on Nutley Street, north of I-66. A nine-story office building and a 17-story office building are also being proposed. The proposal also calls for 68 four-level town houses that would be built to help buffer the massive project from the nearby Townes of Moorefield and Country Creek town-house development.
The Hazel-Peterson Cos. filed a conceptual plan for the site in December but the final development plan was filed this week. The company is asking Fairfax to change the existing PDH-20 zoning (high-rise residential) on the site to a PDC -- planned development commercial -- designation. Under the existing zoning, four residential towers could be built. The old plan on file for the site calls for 18-, 17-, 16- and 14-story buildings constructed on top of three levels of parking.
Representatives of the Hazel-Peterson operation this week displayed models and architects plans for the entire complex which they said is "better than what is planned on the site today."
The proposed development is certain to generate opposition in nearby areas even though James Todd, vice president of Hazel-Peterson, said his company has been working with residents of the two adjacent townhouse complexes for several months. In adition, Fairfax supervisor James Scott, within whose magisterial district the proposed project lies, has often said he wants to make sure whatever is developed on the site includes low- and moderate-income housing.
Hazel-Peterson is promoting the development as an "employment center" where people can live near their jobs and walk to work or do a reverse commute by taking the subway from the District or other areas along the Metro line closer to the city to jobs in the Vienna complex.
That is an idea echoed by zoning attorney Martin Walsh who represents three other developers who also filed a site plan this week for a 10-acre site southeast of the Hazel-Peterson site.
Walsh said he sees the areas around the Vienna Mero station "developing like some of the areas near stations in Arlington."
Developers P. Reed Wills, Wills Investment Inc. and NVCommercial submitted that final site plan for their own development which has been coordinated with the Hazel-Peterson's plan.They are asking Fairfax to change the existing R-8 residential, eight units per acre, zoning on the site to a PDC site.
Like the Hazel-Peterson staff, Walsh said his clients do not think land "this close to the Metro and I-66 is appropriate for residential development at the density now on the site.
Planned as Fairfax Metro Plaza, that proposed project would include only two buildings -- one 12-story office building and one 11-story apartment or condominium building catering primarily to young professionals.
The proposed Virginia Center by Hazel-Peterson would include 2.9 million square feet of office space, 600 hotel rooms in two facilities, 150,000 square feet of retail space and 370 housing units, including 180 units in a high rise for the elderly.
According to Todd, 37 percent of the 61 acres would be left in open space.
The model of the planned development is a bold proposal representing what pronponents say could be a landmark develoment for Fairfax if it is approved. However, the height of the 34-story bulding exceeds the number of floors in any building in the Tysons II development at Tysons Corner.
"Instead of going at this with the architect working on buildings, we went to urban design for the whole concept," said Norris Strawbridge, a member of the design team from the Boston-based firm of Sasaki Associates.
"This area of Fairfax has taken on national importance. When you go to California, people are talking about Fairfax. We are looking at this proposal as part of the Metropolitan regional area," Strawbridge said.
"We have the best site adjacent to any Metro station in the Washington areas," Todd said. It has the best visibility." The station is in the middle of the I-66 right of way east of the Nutley Road/I-66 interchange. The location near Metro and I-66 makes the site extra special, Todd said. "This is a unique opportunity for a site as a corporate signature building," Strawbridge said pointing to the 34-story building on the architectural rendering.
Asked if the development can compete with the Tysons corner market where the office space already exceeds that of cities the size of Richmond and San Antonio, developers said the complex is being designed for a different market.
"This is a splendid site. This provides a unique opporunity for mixed-use. This demands the distinction between a traditional office park and a mixed-use office park," Todd said.
"We must not build buildings awash in a sea of asphalt. The relationships between the mixes are very important in an integrated development," Todd said. "This has all the components of mixed-use -- offices, hotels, retail and residential." Developers also stressed their desire to make sure the restaurants and hotels in the project "keep the development alive" at night.
Developers said the key to the concept is the green spaces along the plaza leading from the staion to Nottoway Park. Existing 100-foot-tall poplar trees have been marked with yellow bands to guarantee those trees are not removed even though any site clearing is months or years away.
Public hearings on the proposals have not yet been scheduled by either the Fairfax planning commission or the board of supervisors. Staff work on both projects will intensify now that final development plans have been submitted. Officials from both development operations said they plan to meet with nearby residents as well as county supervisors and officials of the city of Vienna.
Strawbridge said major steps in the design process were getting the road networks to work and geting the tall buildings close to Metro "and then having the entire development pyramid down to the nearby residential developments and the Metro station."
The current plan calls for the central plaza to be dominated by existing trees between the office buildings and a planted garden area betwene the high rise residential buildings.
"We plan to permanently endow the garden area" to make sure the area is planted annually," Todd said.