The bidding for land occupied by the strip of car dealerships along Leesburg Pike west of Tysons Corner is heating up.
At least a dozen developers and investors are scrambling to buy a 5.5-acre site on the northeast corner of the pike (Route 7) and the Dulles toll and airport road corridor. The site is occupied now by the Brown's Dodge dealership.
Prices for the Dodge site are reportedly in the $43 to $47 per-square-foot range, according to several bidders who have been trying to buy the site.
In addition, owners of the nearby Moore Cadillac dealership reportedly have been offered -- and rejected -- close to $12 million for their seven acres adjacent to the 23-story Sheraton Hotel complex now under construction on the southeast side of Route 7 at the Dulles roads. That dealership has been used as a setting for local social benefits because of its widely admired design.
Other car dealers along the strip reportedly have turned down or are considering offers for their properties, which are considered some of the most prime land in the Tysons area.
But the car dealers who may want to sell face major problems, according to Kenneth L. McVearry, a commercial real estate manager for Coldwell Banker.
Dealers have to stay within the territories where their franchises from the auto makers allow them to operate. They also are restricted to areas where their businesses are permitted by local zoning codes, McVearry noted.
And many dealers prefer to be located near other dealerships to create a larger market that they feel will attract more shoppers.
"They would like to move together," McVearry said.
Meanwhile, developer Michael Hadid is facing major delays while Fairfax County holds up his effort to develop a site on the south side of Route 7 now occupied by Koons Pontiac. Hadid bought the site last year for an undisclosed price that members of the Koons family said at the time was "too good to turn down."
However, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has delayed action on Hadid's request to have the land zoned for office construction until a recently drafted study of existing and projected heights of buildings in the Tysons Corner area is either incorporated into the county's comprehensive land-use plan for the area or dropped.
Several of those seeking the Dodge dealership site reportedly are interested only if they can build a "mirror" of the 23-story Sheraton tower. Any such attempt likely would kick off a major rezoning battle.
McVearry said he believes that $43 to $47 per square foot would be high for the Dodge site unless a buyer could get a 1.6 floor area ratio zoning approved on it. That would be among the highest densities allowed in the Tysons Corner area.
"Then a $42 or $43 per-square-foot land price would be close to a $29 or $30 floor area ratio FAR foot price," he explained.
McVearry said the Dodge site is "a great site. It is prominent." The site has visibility from both Route 7 and the Dulles road.
McVearry said the Cadillac dealership site is another prime piece of property. Most Tysons/McLean residents see the dealership as a community asset.
However, the land may have problems because anything built on it would overlook remaining car dealerships. McVearry said leasing some existing buildings in the Tysons Corner area has been hindered because tenants do not regard such a view as desirable.
John Koons, owner of JKJ Chevrolet, one of the nation's top dealerships, may disagree. The JKJ Chevrolet dealership at the intersection of Route 7 and Chain Bridge Road is only two stories tall today, but it is built to accommodate as many as 15 stories on top of it.
Long-range plans for the site reportedly call for an office tower, perhaps surrounded by the JKJ dealership and other family-owned car operations. Koons Pontiac, owned by John Koons' brother Joe Koons, is scheduled to move from the site sold to Hadid to a new building on the JKJ site. The date of that move is contingent on Hadid's building schedule.
In general, McVearry said, car dealers need to be located in areas that are convenient to their customers, close to their work places or their homes.
"If the zoning would allow it, if you could find the land, the dealers at Tysons could move as far out Route 7 as Reston and still be close to their customers," McVearry said.
But Fairfax County has opposed changing any residentially zoned land along the Route 7 corridor beyond the Dulles toll lanes to commercial zoning.
There has been some talk of establishing some sort of shopping center of auto dealer showrooms where dealers could have models for customers to see and test drive. Cars in stock would be stored at warehouses in other locations. But there is no such complex planned for the Tysons area, or land in the area zoned for such purposes.
Ironically, there were plans years ago for an auto park proposal on the site where the massive 107-acre Tysons II mixed-use office, retail and hotel complex is being built on the highest geographical point in the Tysons Corner area.
According to the height study holding up the Hadid proposal, "some of the automobile sites are targets for redevelopment for office use."
The Dodge dealership site is one of those tracts included in the study's "redevelopable lands.