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Fairfax Circle May Soon Get a Makeover

Designs are in the works to rebuild the shopping center into a large mixed residential and retail development.

Artist's renderings of proposed new apartments within a mixed residential and retail development at Fairfax Circle.
Artist's renderings of proposed new apartments within a mixed residential and retail development at Fairfax Circle.
The owners of Fairfax Circle are looking to completely rebuild the shopping area and make it into a modern and contemporary mix of apartments, retail and restaurants.

Lawyers representing Combined Properties joined the Mayor and City Council for a work session on Tuesday evening to look over the latest draft of designs for the proposed development, which have been in the works for about 18 months.

The proposed new development would include 400 apartments of varying sizes, and around 88,000 square feet of commercial space, which would include a huge, 54,000-square-foot grocery store, and around 34,000 square feet of mixed retail stores and restaurants. The development would also feature structured parking.

Lawyers for Combined Properties said the idea is to transform the roughly 9-acre shopping area—of which around 8 acres is inside City limits, and 1 acre in the Mantua area of Fairfax County—into a "walkable great street."

Artist renderings were shown during the presentation. 

Mayor Scott Silverthorne said he welcomes the chance to revive the "tired" shopping center.

"This development is long overdue," he said. "That center is a very tired shopping center. It's been around a long time."

To those who say they worry that a new development that includes such a large grocery store will significantly increase traffic, Silverthorne pointed out that, many years ago, the shopping center used to feature the largest movie theater in Northern Virginia as well as a Safeway grocery store, so the idea is not unheard of.

Councilmember Ellie Schmidt theorized that perhaps the reason the Safeway grocery store left the shopping center years ago is because there was not sufficient parking for it, so she also encouraged the developers to ensure the new development keeps that in mind.

Silverthorne also said he thinks a modern new development will help keep residents in the area and improve their quality of living, and that he appreciates it has features for all ages, including senior citizens.

"I think this development is moving in the right direction," he said, adding that he appreciates the hard work and responsiveness of the developers as they work on the design plans.

"This is an exciting opportunity and I think it will really drive things along the Boulevard," said Councilmember Jeff Greenfield, though he also encouraged the developers to explore ways to fit more parking into the development, as he expects the grocery store in particular will attract a lot of shoppers from both the County and City, as there is not another big grocery store for miles along the Boulevard.

Councilmember Dan Drummond encouraged the developers to keep pedestrian-friendly concepts in mind, as well as consider setting aside some of the 400 units as affordable housing units.

Both Councilmembers Steve Strombres and Dan Drummond said they would prefer to see a nod toward the City's history in the architectural design and public art features of the development.

The developers said they are in talks with Harris Teeter to potentially be the large grocery store within the development.

Combined Properties and the City of Fairfax will continue to work on the designs.

What do you think of the idea of this new shopping area? Tell us in the comments.


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Becky S. December 13, 2013 at 08:08 AM
Doesn't this all sound way too familiar? This was the developer's "big plan" for Old Towne Village and we see what a bust that is. This is more just "smart growth". If people want to live in a tiny apartment over top of a store they can move to Merrifield or New York. The City is losing it's identity as a quiet suburban bedroom community in favor of a "stack em and pack em" mentality. We must, as a City, decide just how big or small we want to be and stop trying to cram these types of developments into every square inch of space. If allowed to proceed the Council will give "exceptions" out the wazoo just like they did with Old Towne Village and there will be too little parking, too high of rents, and a negative impact on traffic, thus insuring another empty mess and a lower quality of life for current residents in favor of those that they think might move here. Stop the "Field of Dreams" attitude of if we build it they will come. They didn't and they won't.
hasty krippendorff December 13, 2013 at 08:46 AM
"...as there is not another big grocery store for miles along the Boulevard." Are the developers unaware of the big modern Safeway on Old Lee Highway at Willard Way? The huge Safeway at Lee Highway & Nutley? Shoppers Food Warehouse at Pickett & Main Street? Also, are there plans for Foxcroft Colony Condominiums, across from FFX Circle on Fairfax Blvd, to be bought out, to clear it for more parking or shops, or residential or office high-rises (similar to Mosaic District on Lee Highway & Gallows)?
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) December 13, 2013 at 08:51 AM
Hasty: I did not hear any mention of doing anything to Foxcroft Colony. The only thing I heard that might be impacted was the Dunkin' Donuts.
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) December 13, 2013 at 09:50 AM
I know several of the Councilmembers usually read the reports from the meetings. I know they welcome your email questions, you can find their email addresses on fairfaxva.gov. From what I heard at the meeting, I think rather the shopping center owners are hoping people in nearby homes like Foxcroft and Farrcroft, etc. will be frequent shoppers there, so I don't think they want them to go away, although I can't speak for them.
hasty krippendorff December 13, 2013 at 09:54 AM
Thank you for your reply, Jennifer. Your good work is much appreciated.
Douglas Stewart December 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Fairfax Circle Plaza has some good stores but it will just get more run-down over time unless we do something. It's also very difficult to walk anywhere in the area. These shopping centers generate a lot of the taxes that pay for our excellent services. The plan that is before the city could make it a much more attractive place, and residents of Foxcroft and other nearby areas could actually walk to the supermarket and other places. We should welcome the proposal, and try to shape it in a positive direction.
Jason Nadeev Kazi December 13, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Hasty - Big, modern Safeway at Old Lee Hwy? That shopping center is also owned by Combined and frankly is outdated and the Safeway is underused. The shopping center is not walkable or bikeable and has too much parking. I have never seen it busy and I would guess that most of the people using that Safeway live along Old Lee Hwy. The only reason I go there is because it's better than the Fair City Shoppers (slow customer service, bad stocking, etc). The Safeway on Nutley is a much better example of a modern, large one. I wouldn't think developers would be interested in Foxcroft as of right now because of the flooding issues and not so prominent entrances to the neighborhood. There wouldn't be any offices in Fairfax city built anytime soon. Have you noticed how many office buildings are up for lease around town? We are "losing" to areas like Chantilly, Merrifield, Tysons, etc. Also it would be very odd to build a parking lot where Foxcroft is because that would probably require a pedestrian bridge to get across the street which would be quite expensive. Douglas - I am somewhat in agreement with you however see this project as being a much better fit to Courthouse Plaza in Old Town which is screaming for renovation. Overall, I like the idea of a Harris Teeter and think it would be used quite a bit. I am not sure what the status of the nearby Fairfax Circle Tower redevelopment project is but that would add to the look of the area. How is this project much different than MetroWest, other than in size? The project in general seems very Fair Lakes - like. I can almost assure you that the only store that I could see returning after the redevelopment being Performance Bicycle. There would no longer be room for Staples, which would shut down the last office supply store within city limits, after the recent closure of Office Depot, which is set to become an Aldi. They also claim that there will be affordable housing in the project. The project seems like it would be priced like Fairfax Corner to me? Is Harris Teeter considered a step above Safeway/Shoppers/Giant? I'm not sure? Also, there's another similar mixed-use project in the pipeline for Kamp Washington near the Tedd Britt Ford property calling for four parcels, five stories and 402 apartments ranging from $1,700 to $2,500 a month.
Tom Ross December 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM
This would be a very positive addition to the city, providing much needed new taxes and economic benefit and replace an aged shopping center that would make an attractive gateway to the city. We will not survive as an attractive community if we do not welcome quality change that is so important to our future. Tom Ross
Rosanne Bellas December 13, 2013 at 01:03 PM
So we are going to put up at least 400 residential units where there were not 400 residential units? What are we going to do to the infrastructure? Fairfax Blvd is such a joy during rush hour as it is.
Tom Ross December 13, 2013 at 01:44 PM
400 units are NOT going to make a huge different in traffic. Some, yes, but remember one of the attractions of the Circle location is good access to metro on foot and by bicycle. Something young people like much more than us old timers. This site provides good access to Route 50, 29 and Pickett Road along with an an excellent trail system that ties directly into metro. Will there an impact if we put in 400 units, of course. But in my view the benefits vastly outweigh the negatives and I, for one, support building this kind of development.
Jason Nadeev Kazi December 13, 2013 at 02:13 PM
The Fairfax Circle area definitely does not have good access to Metro on foot or bicycle. There is only the cross county trail that goes from Thaiss Park to Rt 50 a little bit northeast of this shopping center. If you want to see a bikeable area, try Vienna or Falls Church, along the W&OD trail.
Barry Tutor December 13, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Why doesn't the city just bulldoze the whole Fairfax Blvd corridor to build the ideal big city/small town from scratch. Adding more retail or renovating the old isn't going to draw any more retail traffic unless the city plans on closing Fair Oaks Mall, Fair City Mall, 7 Corners, Tyson's Corner, or banning online shopping. While the 400 residential units probably won't impact the already heavy traffic, what's the huge grocery store going to do? What about the other unspecified businesses? And for the time this project takes, what happens with the additional construction traffic? Revitalize the old place but don't keep adding more space that will likely be under-utilized and eventually abandoned by more struggling or failed businesses.
Tom Ross December 13, 2013 at 05:38 PM
There is an excellent and underutilized trail that connects directly to the metro station. The Fairfax Connector runs adjacent to the Fairfax circle shopping center up across Route 29 and directly to metro. I suspect that many apartment dwellers will take advantage of this; another alternative is the CUE bus that runs right up 29. In response to the other suggestion of "bulldozing" the whole boulevard or closing the mall, unfortunately there is a little issue of property owners deciding what to do with their land, NOT the city. I'd rather see what is being proposed which would begin the process of revitalizing the eastern part of our city than what exists now.
Paul Nabti December 13, 2013 at 09:38 PM
Barry, I agree with you that the grocery store will have a bigger impact on traffic than the 400 units, but does that mean we don't want any new grocery stores in the city? Every time something new gets proposed everyone complains about the traffic. But on the flip side we can just sit and watch Fairfax Boulevard continue to decay. We need the new investment and this project sets a good example.
hasty krippendorff December 14, 2013 at 09:04 AM
http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/read/2/1389070.html
hasty krippendorff December 14, 2013 at 10:18 AM
Jennifer, how do we get a link to be a clickable one here? When I do a copy & paste of links elsewhere, they are always clickable. (I know it's possible to copy & paste the link to the web browser, but some don't have the time or inclination to do so.) Thank you.
Rich Williams December 14, 2013 at 12:53 PM
Take away the fancy supermarket, and this whole plan just looks like an overbuilt, and cheap-looking apartment building. Looks like a carbon-copy of the quickly-built, cheap wood-framed apartment buildings along Monument Drive or Gallows Road, etc. Essentially nothing unique that differentiates it from the junk that Fairfax County gets. And I should point out that having the developer "in talks" with Harris-Teeter is far from a final deal: the talks could easily fall through and then we don't even get the fancy supermarket that the developers are dangling out there to get approval (an old developer trick). Overall, seems like not much benefit to the city here. Why not just improve the existing shopping center like the shopping center where Elevation Burger is now? We got better stores & restaurants, without the hassles of 400 apartments.
Jennifer van der Kleut (Editor) December 14, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Hasty - sorry, it's not possible to put a clickable link in the comments section...
Kate Schwarz December 14, 2013 at 02:57 PM
I have to wonder if anyone here who has stated that this area is not bike- or pedestrian-friendly has ever bothered to bike or walk in this area, as I have done extensively for nearly 3 decades. Old Lee Highway is a designated bike route, there is a lovely paved trail that runs parallel to FFX Blvd (part of the Cross County trail), Old Pickett is easily biked, walked, and there are numerous Metro and Cue bus stops on all 3 of these roads. FFX Blvd has a 3rd lane westbound that is perfect for bicycling.
Becky S. December 15, 2013 at 04:09 PM
@ Rich Williams -- agreed. The City has done that in the past (with Old Towne Village) stating it was "in talks" with numerous large retailers in order to lure others in, but none of it was true. Harris Teeter left the City once already, why would they come back in? Furthermore, I'd like an iron-clad guarantee that this is not another "pubic-private partnership" and that NO taxpayers dollars will be used in any way shape or form for this project. Additionally the City must require the developers to include the necessary infrastructure improvements (roads and sufficient parking among other things) to accommodate the project at their expense. And, then this might be worth looking at. Unfortunately, the City has a tendency to become starry-eyed at the thought of all the new "tax revenues" it might (or might not) get with new development and overlook the negative impacts on the current community. I concur, that remodeling/updating/rebuilding of aging properties is a good idea but it must done by the private sector and not driven by government nor funded with any taxpayer dollars.

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