A plan to convert an iconic building in Tysons into a group of publicly accessible commercial offerings on May 6 received the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s unanimous support.
Planning Commission members recommended the Board of Supervisors approve plans by Tamares 7950 Owner LLC concerning Valo Park, a 16.74-acre property located at 7950 Jones Branch Drive, just south of the Dulles Access Road.
The site now has an 11-story office building and attached five-story parking structure. The applicant wants to rezone the property and convert up to 65,000 square feet of ground-floor office space to other uses, such as a health club, auditorium, conference center and restaurants.
Those first three uses already exist at the site for private use, and the applicant wishes to allow public rental of those facilities.
The applicant is proposing to have two restaurants replace office uses in each wing of the building.
A third restaurant, which might produce craft beverages, would be located atop the five-story parking structure. This restaurant would increase the site’s gross floor area by 5,000 square feet, but not affect the overall floor-area ratio of 1.07.
The application would not increase the site’s parking requirements, as the applicant will take advantage of reduced parking rates allowed in the Tysons urban center, county planning staff said.
A concurrent application for a comprehensive sign plan for the property would allow nine existing signs to remain, including six tenant signs on the building’s towers and three on the parking garage.
The applicant would like to add nine building-mounted signs, two of which would identify Valo Park and seven that would designate tenants. Eleven proposed freestanding signs would facilitate wayfinding at the site. These would include six pedestrian signs, a monument sign and four vehicular signs.
The applicant would be able to use two temporary signs, one mounted to the building and the other freestanding. No temporary signs would be allowed on the building’s north side, which faces the McLean Hamlet neighborhood across the Dulles Access Road.
The property owner worked with McLean Hamlet representatives and the McLean Citizens Association regarding the signs, which now will be smaller than some on other buildings facing the Dulles Access Road and will be turned off after 11 p.m., said Scott Adams, the applicant’s attorney.
In addition, the signs will adhere to new county lighting standards and be less bright than previously would have been allowed, he said.
Planning Commission vice chairman John Ulfelder (Dranesville District) thanked the applicant for taking those signage measures.
“You’re quite correct. It’s a beautiful site and hopefully these changes will help further activate it and make it part of the Tysons fabric as we go forward,” Ulfelder said.
The development proposal is designed to reposition an existing site for current market conditions and bring it closer to the vision of the Tysons Comprehensive Plan, Adams said.
The building’s history as the headquarters for Gannett Co. Inc. and USA Today, as well as its distinctive architecture with angular glass façade, are “woven into the fabric of Tysons,” Adams said.
The building’s architecture will not change substantially, except to allow the public directly to enter the site’s ground-floor restaurants and health club, instead of going through the existing lobby, he said.
The applicant’s proposals represent a “straightforward attempt to bring more people into the building,” said Planning Commission member Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner.
The new restaurants and retail are the kind of amenities needed to attract major commercial tenants, which themselves are competing for a workforce that “values a more active environment when making employment decisions,” he said. “It will be an asset to Tysons and the community for years to come.”