The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, which has been working to expand its footprint across the Washington region, has scored another success.
Fairfax County Planning Commission members on Jan. 12 unanimously approved a final development plan advanced by APAH to build 175 affordable-housing units on a 2-acre site in Tysons.
The Dominion Square West residential development will be located on the north side of Spring Hill Road about 1,000 feet west of Leesburg Pike. APAH will construct a 175,000-square-foot, nine-story residential building with up to 5,000 square feet of retail space above a three-level, partially below-grade parking garage.
The parcel is within a quarter-mile of the Spring Hill Metro station and is part of the larger Dominion Square West development. The site now is home to surface parking and is surrounded by office developments and auto dealerships.
The development’s floor-area ratio, which compares a project’s gross floor area with the square footage of the parcel, will be a comparatively high 2.07, but developments within a quarter-mile of Tysons Metro stations are allowed unlimited density under the county’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan.
All of the project’s dwelling units will be affordable housing and available to people making 60 percent or less of area median income. Many of the units will be targeted at people making 50 percent or less of area median income, with some dwellings catering to those making 30 percent of that income level, said Scott Adams, the applicant’s representative.
A substantial portion of the units will have two or three bedrooms. Such larger units generate the highest demand in affordable housing, said Mitch Crispell, director of real-estate development for APAH.
“The unit mix here is comparable to many of our developments,” he said.
The building will meet high architectural expectations in Tysons and have plenty of amenities for residents, including an elevated courtyard, Adams said.
“I think walking by this building once it is built, you’re going to be hard-pressed to be able to tell that this is a building that has 100-percent affordable units, because it’s going to look and appear the exact same as a market-rate building,” he said.
The project also will meet the Tysons plan’s expectations for streetscape; stormwater management; proffers for schools, athletic fields and parks; street grid; and “green” building commitments, including the potential for solar power, Adams said.
In the future, the eastern portion of the site – now slated to have surface parking, a publicly accessible park and stormwater-management area – may be redeveloped with another residential building, county staff said.
The interim park space ultimately will be replaced, after Boone Boulevard is redeveloped fully, by a park at Spring Way and Boone Boulevard.
The site’s stormwater-management area will reduce phosphorous via rainwater harvesting and urban bio-retention areas. An existing dry pond will remain at the site until the second residential building is constructed there, at which point the stormwater-management area will be removed.
County staff support the project, said Mary Ann Tsai of the Department of Planning and Development.
“We think it’s a very unique development that proposes affordable housing in Tysons and it is within a quarter-mile from the Metrorail station,” she said.
The project “is the exact type of Metro-accessible affordable housing that the county wants to attract and it’s something that has been difficult to achieve,” Adams said. “This is a project that really provides a template for how this can be done in the county’s urban centers.”
The affordable housing will be located in an area that now is under-served by it, Adams said. APAH will seek Low-Income Housing Tax Credit funding for the project, he added.
Founded in 1989, non-profit APAH is one of the nation’s top affordable-housing developers and provides attractive and safe rental housing to more than 2,000 households, Adams said. The organization also is expert at building such housing in urban areas, he said.
“I think, frankly, they just know how to get things done and I don’t think you’ll find a better implementer for this type of important affordable-housing project than what APAH brings to the table,” Adams said.
Planning Commissioner Walter Clarke (Mount Vernon District) called the project “cutting-edge and exciting,” but questioned the lack of commitment for retail.
“We felt like the ground-floor use could be better put toward amenities and services for the residents of the building,” Adams said, adding that the future second building would have more ground-floor options, including public ones.
The development will have one parking space per unit, consistent with the county’s policy in Tysons, but APAH leaders are examining possible parking arrangement with over-parked office buildings nearby, Adams said.
Commission member John Carter (Hunter Mill District) expressed concern about the concentration of affordable housing, but moved for the development plan’s approval.
“This is not the Bronx,” Carter said. We’re not going to have projects like that in Fairfax, I don’t think. It’s part of a larger complex with one developer, so there will be self-policing . . . to keep the quality of these things up.”
The development will have four electric-vehicle charging stations to serve eight vehicles and have conduits that would allow for expansion of that service, Carter added.
“In short, they’re not dodging the Fairfax County standards and are still providing affordable housing,” Carter said.
“The caliber of the facilities and the amenities, if it can be sustained over time, [is] a great opportunity for Tysons and for the county,” said Planning Commission member Phillip Niedzielski-Eichner (Providence District).
The Planning Commission approves final development plans, so the matter will not need subsequent approval from the Board of Supervisors, staff said.