Fairfax supervisors OK residential building in McLean

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 16, 2018, unanimously approved Benchmark Associates LP's proposal to build six floors of multi-family residential space atop a 3.5-level parking structure at 6707 Old Dominion Drive in McLean.

Hailed as a much-needed infusion of residential space in McLean’s Community Business Center (CBC), Benchmark Associates LP’s proposed 44-unit multi-family building received unanimous support Oct. 16 from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

The structure will be located on 1.43 acres at 6707 Old Dominion Drive and feature six residential floors built atop at 3.5-level parking garage, with a total floor-area ratio of 1.99.

The site currently is home to a commercial building with ground-floor retail topped by two stories of office space, which will remain, and a 95-space surface parking lot, where the residential structure will be constructed.

The residential structure will be 90 feet tall, the same as the adjacent Palladium building, Benchmark Associates will lessen the new building’s visual impact by using setbacks, building step-backs (upper floors located an additional distance from the street), deep balconies, window bays and ground-level pocket parks, county planning staff said.

The developer will provide 50 percent more open space than required in that zoning district. This will include a pair of publicly accessible open spaces along the site’s Lowell Avenue frontage and an elevated private terrace built atop an undeveloped portion of the parking structure.

The developer will add visual interest to the new building by sheathing the parking podium in red bricks and the residential structure atop it in light-gray bricks.

Supporters of the project also lauded the developer’s $450,000 contribution toward future utility undergrounding in downtown McLean.

Critics of the project when it first was proposed were worried about parking and traffic impacts while the new structure is being built.

Benchmark Associates will create a committee of surrounding property owners, which will meet regularly to address issues that arise during construction, said Lori Greenlief, an attorney for the applicant.

“This project is of a scale that is implementable in the McLean CBC and will hopefully be a catalyst for further revitalization efforts,” she said.

Three local residents also testified in favor of the project.

McLean Planning Committee member Maya Huber said Benchmark Associates’ proposal would be the kind of residential development that works well in central McLean.

“It adds the people that may walk to the retail shops,” she said. “It doesn’t add any traffic. It is surrounded by restaurants.”

Ron Bleeker, representing the McLean Citizens Association, said the proposed development addressed concerns expressed earlier by the association, including the need for a detailed parking plan.

The developer’s planned building step-backs, especially along Emerson Avenue, “would make the streetscape more open to the sky and [offer] less of a canyon-like feeling,” Bleeker said.

Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce president Paul Kohlenberger affirmed the chamber’s support for the project, saying a recent economic assessment found multi-family residential space was the kind of development most needed in the McLean CBC.

Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who moved for the project’s approval, noted the extensive public process that led to the final result.

“I think it’s really a good application, but it’s also one that everybody feels they’ve had a hand in and their issues have been addressed,” he said. “It’s something that I think will deliver a really nice product to downtown McLean.”

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