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FairfaxBusinessAfter long and winding road, mixed-use project wins approval

After long and winding road, mixed-use project wins approval

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It’s been eight years since the Vienna Town Council approved a Church Street Vision redevelopment project, but the drought ended July 11 when the Council OK’d a mixed-use structure at Lawyers Road, N.W., and Church Street, N.W.

JB Church 145 LLC will redevelop two parcels on 0.62 acres at 139-145 Church St., N.W., and construct a three-story, mixed-used building with 11 residential units, commercial space and a two-level parking garage in the rear.

The Town Council approved the application on a 7-0 vote.

The top story will contain multi-family dwellings, the second floor a mix of multi-family units and offices, and the ground floor will host retail outlets and restaurants with outdoor dining. Second-floor residences and offices will have separate entrances but share a common hallway, an arrangement applicant’s representatives said is “not common, but is not unique.”

The property now is home to a two-story, 6,100-square-foot commercial building at 139 Church St., N.W., which was built in 1976, and a two-story, 3,900-square-foot commercial building at 145 Church St, N.W., constructed in 1955.

The applicant would raze both structures to make way for the mixed-use building.

Since receiving a less-than-enthusiastic reception after presenting the proposal to the Council last June, the applicant made several key revisions.

The developer slashed the gross floor area by about one-third, going from the initially proposed 39,165 square feet (18,896 for 18 residential units and 20,269 for commercial space) to the current 25,101 square feet (13,055 for 11 residential dwellings and 14,152 for commercial/non-residential space).

The applicant removed a previously proposed basement commercial floor area, lowered the project’s height by one story and reduced the number of parking spaces from 72 to 56, including 14 public parking spaces.

The development company, owned by James Bognet, president and CEO of Tysons-based Bognet Construction, also refined the structure’s aesthetics by adding architectural and façade details, such as more wall offsets and roofline changes.

“The difference between this project now and the iteration of a year [ago] is night-and-day,” Council member Howard Springsteen told the applicant. “It’s all for the better . . . You really have worked hard to try to make this work.”

The Council permitted the development to have a floor-area ratio (FAR) of 0.93, which exceeds the usual 0.7 allowed in the Church Street Vision zone. (FAR compares a project’s gross floor area with the square footage of its site.)

Council members approved a 0.92 FAR for a previous project at 111-113 Church St., N.W., because it provided 18 more parking spaces than the minimum required, town staff noted.

Because the applicant submitted the project under the town’s Church Street Vision overlay zone, which the Council adopted in 1999, it underwent review only by town staff and the Council and bypassed standard scrutiny from the town’s Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review.

Council member Ed Somers pressed the applicant to provide more covered spaces for bicycle parking, given that the site is about two blocks away from the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail.

The Council accepted Somers’ amendment that the applicant should consider supplying additional covered bike parking spaces for residents at the site and engage with town staff regarding the spaces’ location.

The applicant’s final package was a decided improvement over the original, said Council member Charles Anderson.

“This is the kind of partnership that we want in town, which is where we work with the business community or the developer to come up with something that really the town will be proud of,” he said.

Mayor Linda Colbert agreed, adding that the process sometimes had been bumpy along the way.

“I know it might have been a little painful at times, but sometimes no pain, no gain,” she said.

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