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Mars details HQ-improvement plan at McLean Chamber event

Spokesman: 'We think it’s going to be incredibly beautiful, when all is said and done'
Peter Rowan, U.S. public-affairs lead for Mars Inc., outlines the company's proposal to redevelop its McLean headquarters during a Sept. 27, 2023, presentation to the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce.

Mars Inc.’s McLean headquarters expansion features an environmentally friendly design, public and private amenity spaces, and connections with an adjacent property’s pathways.

Representatives of the candy-making corporation provided the latest updates Sept. 27 at a breakfast meeting of the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce.

“We think it’s going to be incredibly beautiful, when all is said and done,” said Peter Rowan, U.S. public-affairs lead for Mars Inc., said of the proposed project.

The initiative involves the company’s current headquarters building at 6885 Elm St. and an adjacent property at 6867 Elm St., purchased in 2020, where an existing office building would be razed to make way for improvements.

Mars Inc. would add a publicly accessible outdoor area on the site, which would marry up with similar amenities being planned at the adjacent Astoria development. The 2,000-square-foot public space would feature a curved pergola, said Evan Pritchard, a land-use attorney working on the project.

There would be a private landscaped area for employees, which will be dog-friendly, as well as an elevated patio area. A 12-foot-wide shared-use path would cater to bicyclists and pedestrians.

“The whole site is going to get a facelift and upgrades and just be more pleasant to walk around and drive past,” Pritchard said.

Instead of the current building’s heavy design with a brick façade – “The structure is really solid, as we’re coming to find out,” Rowan said – the renovated headquarters would employ a glass façade with pilings.

The company plans to underground all utilities around the property, relocate the bus stop on Old Dominion Drive and provide a bus shelter with a more traditional design like the one at the neighboring Signet property, instead of a futuristic one.

Benches in the public area also would have a traditional aspect; after consulting with county officials, the company decided against providing a series of stone blocks for use as seating.

Mars Inc. also would incorporate the facility’s backup generator into the building’s parking garage in order to lessen impacts on neighbors.

Another interesting feature of the proposed building is an interior turntable for delivery trucks at the loading dock on Moyer Place, which would remove the need for truck drivers to back into the street after depositing their wares, Pritchard said.

The site would provide 205 parking spaces, which aligns with standards under the county’s newly passed “Parking Reimagined” regulations. All the spaces would be inside a parking structure in the building, which now uses mostly surface parking and some spaces in an enclosed garage.

Because the facility is secure, there would be four parking spaces outside the entry on Elm Street, where unannounced visitors could park before receiving permission to enter the parking structure.

The headquarters would continue to host its current complement of between 120 and 150 employees and use an open-floor concept with plenty of meeting rooms.

The site has recorded a maximum of 191 workers on the property at any one period, so the proposed number of parking spaces should be more than sufficient even if all those employees arrived in single-occupant vehicles, Pritchard said.

The building would make better use of natural light and have environmentally friendly features. Mars Inc. hopes the structure would obtain Gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, Pritchard said.

Instead of building an underground vault to handle stormwater at the site, water runoff would be dispersed on the property’s open area and there would be “rain gardens” as well.

The proposal is slated for review by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Oct. 11 and the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 24. (Because this is an election year, the latter meeting is the final one of the year during which supervisors may consider land-use applications.)

If supervisors approved the application, Mars officials would spend the next six to nine months obtaining necessary permits. Around the end of the first quarter of 2024, the company would shift its workers to temporary office space in Tysons, where they would remain for the 18-to-24-month construction period.

Mars has grown considerably since coming to McLean in 1984, Rowan said. The company had $10 billion worth of sales and 20,000 employees that year, but that since has grown to $47 billion and 140,000 workers, he said.