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FairfaxTall Vienna building allowed more medical uses

Tall Vienna building allowed more medical uses

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Vienna’s tallest office building – at six stories, not exactly a skyscraper – will be allowed to accommodate more office uses, the Vienna Town Council agreed Sept. 26.

White Oak Tower, located at 301 Maple Ave., W., was built in 1977 and converted to commercial condominiums in 2005. The Council, at the time reasoning that medical uses typically require more parking than standard offices, approved the conversion on the condition that no more than 50 percent of the building’s space could be occupied by medical offices.

The building in October 2021 reached 49.66 percent occupancy by medical offices, with only 152 square feet remaining below that threshold, according to a town staff report.

Applicant Kim Luu-Tu, president of White Oak Tower Office Condominium Association, earlier this year asked the town to remove that 2005 restriction, but the Council rejected the proposal in March.

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The 48,323-square-foot building, sited on 1.35 acres, provides a total of 183 parking spaces below the building, in a two-level garage behind it and with surface spaces. That total exceeds what was required when the building was built, but falls short of the 226 spaces currently required by town code.

The site has not experienced parking difficulties and visitors rarely use the parking garage’s top deck, Luu-Tu told the Vienna Planning Commission Aug. 24.

The Planning Commission recommended that the Council drop the medical-use limitation entirely, but also provided a second option to boost the threshold to 80 percent and revisit the issue in three years to see how matters have panned out.

The Council on Sept. 26 unanimously chose that latter option after voting 4-3 against a proposal to remove the medical-use cap. Council members Charles Anderson, Ray Brill Jr., Howard Springsteen and Steve Potter took the view that it would be extremely difficult for the town to reverse its position if the building obtained full medical occupancy.

“I would rather move incrementally than in toto,” Anderson said.

But Council member Nisha Patel, an ophthalmologist, sympathized with the applicant.

“I am really curious why we’re singling out this building,” she said. “There seems to be enough parking with this building. We need to treat everybody the same and fairly.”

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