Fairfax County's planning staff and a team of consultants are recommending construction of more than 7 million square feet of commercial and residential space on six sites adjacent to the Vienna Metro station, which is scheduled to open in midsummer.
The plan calls for a mix of retail, office, housing and hotel development designed to create "an effective transit-related environment," according to the report. The complex would have about half as much shopping and office floor space as now exists in the Tysons Corner area.
The report, prepared by urban and architectural design consultants Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, transportation analysts JHK & Associates, and economists Zuchelli, Hunter & Associates, calls for major construction projects on both the north and south sides of the Metro station, located in the median of I-66 at the Nutley Street interchange. The station, at the western end of Metro's Orange Line, is near the town of Vienna and north of Rtes. 29 and 211.
Proposed buildings include 17-, 18- and 19-story office towers and eight-, 10- and 12-story residential buildings interspersed with low- and mid-rise structures and two hotels. A conceptual development plan calls for as many as 43 new buildings.
Plans call for 3.8 million square feet of commercial and retail space, 700 hotel rooms in 525,000 square feet and 2,579 housing units in 2.8 million square feet of space spread over almost 184 acres.
Gary Molyneaux, chief of Metro station area planning for Fairfax County, said the proposed "development option is moderately high density for Fairfax County" because it is concentrated on a station site. But he said densities are "in line with those being granted to developers on non-Metro-related sites throughout the county. "The staff absolutely supports this plan," Molyneaux said.
The mix of development is to be 40 percent residential and 60 percent commercial, a ratio that several landowners near the station this week criticized for having too much housing and not enough commercial development.
But county officials, including Supervisor James Scott, within whose Providence district the station is located, said the housing units would help meet the county's growing need for affordable housing. According to the consultants' report, residential towers will include "low- to moderate-income housing."
Development of 7 million square feet of commercial and residential space is contingent on the county's gaining additional access ramps to I-66 west of the station via a new bridge Metro already has built across I-66, Molyneaux said.
However, Scott said he has "grave reservations" about some of the proposals and would be hard-pressed to approve "a land-use plan based on a pie-in-the-sky transportation plan."
The Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation is studying a county request for new access to I-66 but has not acted on the plan. The link between development density and the I-66 access could be dropped at any point, according to several county sources.
If the access to I-66 is granted, developers would not have to contribute additional land for road development, but Molyneaux said developers would be expected to help pay for ramps from the bridge to I-66.
The consultants' report was mailed this week to the 16 members of a citizens' task force that has been studying the station site for several months.
It includes a development alternative that totals only about 5 million square feet. That option would give most of the rights to build the more intense projects to the two largest landowners in the study area -- Hazel-Peterson Cos. and The Evans Co. Their tracts already are zoned for high-rise development.
Scott predicted that the county Board of Supervisors would not try to downzone sites already slated for high-rise use. County officials said they feared such action could set the stage for protracted legal battles between landowners and the county similar to those that took place after the county's controversial downzoning of land in the Occoquan watershed.
The consultants said their plan for the Vienna Metro station area allows for an equitable dispersal of development densities to all property owners.
The citizens' task force will discuss the report on Tuesday at a 7:30 p.m. meeting at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Task force members will continue to work with consultants and county staff on final proposals for changes to the county's comprehensive land-use plan, which will incorporate final plans for the Vienna station area.
Both the county planning commission and the supervisors will hold public hearings before voting on a final station plan. Dates for those hearings have not been set.
The proposal for the Vienna station is far more dense than the plan the supervisors adopted for the West Falls Church Metro station, but is in line with plans approved for the Huntington Metro station in southeastern Fairfax, planners said.
Vienna sites planned for development are owned by the Hazel-Peterson Cos., The Evans Co., developer Reed Wills, developer Paul Sweeny, the Fairlee subdivision, where most homeowners have contracted to sell their property to Lincoln Properties, and Metro.
In an unexpected proposal, the study calls for construction of a 500-room six-story hotel on top of a five-story parking garage on Metro land next to the station.
The study also calls for maintaining existing residential areas, including the Five Oaks community, Blakeview and Country Creek.
Some development plans supported by staff and consultants are less intense than landowners wanted. The most controversial is the 61-acre Hazel-Peterson tract, known as Virginia Center, north of the Metro station. Hazel-Peterson had asked Fairfax to approve a 3.3 million-square-foot development, including a 34-story building, but had since reduced the height of the centerpiece tower to 28 stories.
James Todd, president of Hazel-Peterson, said this week that his firm is willing to cut its project to 1.8 million square feet of commercial space, drop plans for one of two hotels and build 400 housing units. Fairfax now wants to limit that site to 1.5 million square feet of commercial space and wants the company to build 1,000 housing units.
"We still think Virginia Center has the potential to be a national landmark in terms of Metro-oriented, mixed-use development," Todd said.
The largest development south of the station area is the 60-acre Evans Co. site, already zoned for 1.2 million square feet of space. The consultants' plan would increase what Evans could build to 1.4 million square feet, in exchange for the company's donation of land for a major road to be built throughout developments on the south side of the station.