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Office-to-residential conversion plan in Tysons draws flak

McLean Citizens Assn. voices concerns about types of housing to be available on parcel

A proposal to replace a previously approved office building with a 240-unit residential structure at the Arbor Row development in Tysons failed Feb. 7 to get support from the McLean Citizens Association (MCA), which opposed what members said was a lack of workforce housing.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November 2012 approved the original 19.4-acre rezoning for the 2.61-million-square-foot, mixed-use Arbor Row development.

The applicants, Arbor Row C-2 LLC and Cityline Partners, now wish to rezone a 2.92-acre parcel of the site, called Block C-2. The property is located on the south side of Westpark Drive between Westbranch and Jones Branch drives.

The applicants are seeking concurrent approval of a conceptual-development plan, final-development-plan amendment and proffered-condition amendment to replace the office building with a residential structure, said Robert Perito, chairman of MCA’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

The site currently is approved for up to a 275,650-square-foot office building with retail. That building could be up to 210 feet tall, including a 30-foot-tall penthouse area for mechanical equipment.

The applicants now are seeking a rezoning to allow a 23-story, 277,622-square-foot residential building with up to 8,500 square feet of ground-floor retail or service uses. That building could be up to 270 feet tall, including the penthouse.

The application also includes a 0.8-acre public park with an urban plaza and active-recreation facilities.

The MCA board of directors passed a resolution recommending that the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors oppose the proposal on the grounds that:

• The developer is seeking an exception to the Tysons comprehensive plan so as to provide cash contributions instead of the requisite number of workforce-dwelling units (WDUs).

• Those WDUs under the comprehensive plan would have to be located on-site or within the boundaries of Tysons, if they were for-sale condominium units and not rental apartments. The applicants instead would like to provide the units within 5 miles of the Tysons boundaries.

• The applicant also would like to locate the outside-of-Tysons WDUs up to a half-mile away from public transportation or, if within 1 mile if the dwellings are approved by the Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development, versus the Tysons plan’s quarter-mile threshold.

• In addition, the applicant is seeking to have its cash contributions per WDU equal to 3 percent of the estimated market sales price per square foot of the units. That contribution would be maintained an increase slightly for four years following the rezoning approval’s date.

But MCA leaders said that fixed-dollar figure might not conform with the Tysons plan’s requirements, depending on when the units are sold.

The applicants also have failed to justify their request to substitute cash for WDUs or explain why this is a “rare event,” as stipulated in the Tysons plan, Perito said.

“Given the number of office-to-residential conversion applications in process in Tysons, McLean and throughout Fairfax County, we believe that agreeing to these unprecedented exceptions could lead to similar requests from other developers, diminishing the availability of workforce housing,” Perito said.

“This proposal is a threat to the integrity of the Tysons comprehensive plan. The plan seeks to create a community where people live, work and raise their families,” he added. “If this proposal is accepted, other developers will simply follow suit.”

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a Feb. 28 public hearing on the matter.