A team of consultants and the Fairfax County planning staff are recommending that predominantly commercial buildings with more than 5 million square feet of space be erected near the Dunn Loring Metro subway station, which is scheduled to open this summer.
The proposal calls for a mix of office, retail and residential complexes on 108 acres surrounding the station, which has been built in the I-66 median just outside the Capital Beltway. The development would straddle Gallows Road near the Dunn Loring residential community and the Merrifield commercial area.
The plan calls for development on some sites at Dunn Loring that would exceed densities planned for development around the Vienna Metro station, the next and final stop to the west along the Orange Line, and densities higher than those generally approved for the Tysons Corner area.
The Dunn Loring study calls for a long list of major road improvements that economic analysts said could cost more than $46 million.
The report, prepared by urban and architectural design consultants Skidmore Owings & Merrill, transportation analyst JHK & Associates and the economic consulting firm of Zuchelli, Hunter and Associates, encourages the stabilization of many existing residential neighborhoods in the area, including the Merrifield Village apartment complex and the Bright Meadows, Stonewall Manor and Dunn Loring Woods subdivisions.
The consultants predicted redevelopment of older but still-thriving businesses in the Merrifield area to the south of the station -- a move they said they support. Their recommendations are likely to be consistent with proposals being considered by a special county study group that is evaluating and planning the future of the entire Merrifield area, according to county planners.
Although the study recommends specific heights on many of the sites involved, Gary Molyneaux, head of Fairfax County's transit station development planning, said, "The county wants developers to come in with innovative proposals."
Molyneaux predicted there will be a building height limit of "around 12 to 15 stories" when the study finally is adopted.
The study recommends long-range redevelopment of some existing commercial sites and calls for more than 1.1 million square feet of commercial, retail and residential development on 18 acres of land where the Belle Forest subdivision now exists just to the east of the Metro station. That recommendation surprised some Belle Forest residents.
The development would include 596,000 square feet of commercial space, 80,000 square feet of retail space and 400 residential units.
Stephen Cumbie, head of the NVCommercial development firm, said the company is buying the homes in the neighborhood. He said the proposed densities would permit his company to develop the site and complete its purchase contract with homeowners.
He said he wished the proposal did not require so many residential units, although NVCommercial and its sister company NVHomes have the capability to produce the required housing. He said plans will allow NVCommercial to "create a landmark office building for the Metro station."
Landowners, county planners and consultants said there was not as much land vacant for development at the Dunn Loring site as there is near the Vienna station. That means Dunn Loring development would take "30 to 40 years" because redevelopment is a much longer and more tedious process than building on vacant land, Molyneaux said.
When Belle Forest homeowners banded together to sell their land, they said the area was rural when they moved there 30 years ago. Still, cows can be seen grazing not far away on a farm, the last vestige of what many residents see as the "good old days" before the building boom hit Fairfax.
Some residents have questioned the proximity of the Stenwood Elementary School to the Metro station, immediately to the north. Molyneaux said that "early in the planning stages," the county asked school board officials if they wanted to sell the land for redevelopment, but they chose to keep the school open.
The report is scheduled to go next week to the Dunn Loring Metro station task force, which is headed by resident David Sayre. The task force then will make its own recommendations as to what should be built. The Fairfax County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will hold public hearings late this year before making final decisions.
Construction of new projects would have to be phased in to coincide with major improvements to the existing road system, according to the study.
Among other road improvements, the report recommends:
*Widening Gallows Road from Rte. 50 to Tysons Corner to six lanes and limiting access to Gallows Road between Rte. 50 and Lee Highway.
*Constructing an overpass interchange at Gallows Road and Lee Highway.
*Widening Lee Highway to six lanes from Nutley Sreet to Hartland Road and constructing multiple turning lanes at Prosperity Avenue and Lee Highway.