In Tysons, new housing for seniors is on the horizon

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 25, 2019, approved plans by Cityline Partners LLC to build “The Mather,” a continuing-care facility for seniors in Tysons.

Tysons will receive its first continuing-care facility following the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous approval June 25 of a proposal by Cityline Partners LLC.

Supervisors agreed to modify the developer’s plans for Arbor Row, originally approved in 2012, which called for 2.61 million square feet overall of mixed-use development, including 1.44 million square feet of residential space and the remainder devoted to office uses.

The continuing-care facility’s vertical, urban design is unusual in Fairfax County, where most senior centers are spread out horizontally, said Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence).

“We have something, I think, that will be an asset to Tysons,” she said. “It doesn’t fit our plan guidance because it’s not the usual thing. It’s much different.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) indicated her support as well.

“I think that this is a beautiful project,” she said. “I’m pleased to see senior housing in Tysons. I think that is an ingredient that has not been included in other developments.”

The planned changes will occur in the southeast quadrant of Cityline’s property at the intersection of Westbranch and Westpark drives.

Previous plans called for Block B of the site to have an up-to-225-foot-tall, 392,785-square-foot office building. Blocks C-1 and C-2 each were to have 180-foot-tall buildings with 275,650 square feet worth of space.

An urban park also had been planned for Block C, with a civic plaza on Westpark Drive and a common green behind Buildings C-1 and C-2.

Supervisors approved Cityline’s new plans to replace the office buildings on Blocks B and C-1 with one building designed as a continuing-care facility. The new building, consisting of two towers connected with a five-story bridging element, will have the same total density – 668,435 square feet – of both those other structures, but be taller.

The towers will be 78 feet apart and set at an angle to each other to provide better privacy for residents.

County planning staff recommended supervisors deny Cityline’s proposal on three grounds. Staff members noted the Tysons comprehensive plan calls for buildings located as far away from a Metro station as Cityline’s are to be between 175 and 225 feet tall. While the continuing-care facility’s tower on Block C-1 is within that range at 206 feet, the one on Block B will rise 285 feet, or 60 feet above the standard limit.

While Cityline justified the extra height because of the planned provision of a 2,750-square-foot public facility on the building’s first floor, county staff did not think this was an adequate trade-off for the additional six floors.

County staffers also noted that while the previously planned buildings on Blocks B and C-1 would have podiums 155 and 210 feet long, respectively, the proposed joined two-tower building’s base would be 425 feet long.

Planning staff members acknowledged the new proposal’s publicly accessible parks and open space would increase from 4.16 acres to 4.93 acres under the new proposal, but said the new configuration would feature an elongated area behind the parking garage, where the grade changes steeply.

But the applicant’s attorney, John McGranahan, said the new proposal was better because it provided much-needed housing for senior residents, helped diversify housing options in Tysons and reduced the anticipated amount of traffic by 70 percent, compared with the office uses previously approved.

McGranahan defended the value of the site’s public facility, saying it would cost $35 million to construct, equip and operate.

The continuing-care facility will require 1,134 fewer parking spaces and have a parking garage that uses an efficient “mechanized valet” system.

The site’s reconfigured park will be larger than the earlier version and will be constructed sooner than previously scheduled, McGranahan said.  

The development also has the support of the McLean Citizens Association, Health Care Advisory Board and Fairfax County Planning Commission, McGranahan said.

The continuing-care facility will be run by Mather LifeWays, a non-denominational non-profit organization founded in 1941, he said.

“They know what they’re doing and they’re very, very good at it,” McGranahan said, adding that the organization currently has begun a study with the University of California Los Angeles on ways of communicating with seniors about the need to participate in social activities and wellness programs.

The continuing-care facility will fit in well with its surroundings, as one already-constructed Arbor Row building is 300 feet tall and a structure approved to be built across the street will be 275 feet tall, he said.

“In the context of the surrounding neighbors, this building is absolutely compatible,” McGranahan said of the senior facility.

The site’s urban park will be 3.08 acres, up slightly from the previously planned size, and feature a 22,732-square-foot lawn area, which was more than 10,000 feet larger than the one approved earlier.

Cityline’s elimination of an office parking garage freed up more open space. The park is fully designed and will feature bocce courts, a dog park and a sculpture garden, McGranahan said.

Smyth complimented county staffers for handling an especially complicated development case.

“Anytime where you have a major rezoning that’s already been approved and then you go back in and make changes to part of it, you have to do so much sorting,” she said.

Supervisor Patrick Herrity (R-Springfield) also was keen on the proposal.

“It is important that we give our seniors choices,” Herrity said. Such facilities are “going to become more and more important as the population ages,” he said.

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