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Town Receives Plan For Parking, Retail Space

Multi-million dollar Church Street project would add mixed-use building, 50-foot municipal parking structure to corridor

The Vienna Town Council directed staff Monday night to review a private proposal for a three-story mixed use building and four-story parking structure on Church Street, the first pitch to come in under the town's

The plan, submitted by Arrington Properties LLC, would put two buildings in the 23,848 square foot lot at 120 Church Street NW: A three-story mixed use building facing Church Street, with retail on the ground floor and residential units in the two floors above it, and a four-story municipal parking structure, which would double the parking between Mill and Lawyers Roads, according to plan documents.

The project would cost between $5.8 and $6.6 million, the plan said.

The private building, which would cost between $3 and $3.3 million, would be developed and funded by Arrington. Land for the parking structure would be sold to Vienna for $1 and construction would be financed by the town, perhaps through bonds, according to the proposal document given to town staff. Construction would likely cost between $2.8 and $3.3 million, it said.

It's the first time the council has put to use the public-private guidelines it adopted Feb. 27, which allows it either to solicit private organizations or individuals as partners in one of its building plans, or, accept new project plans for facilities and infrastructure developed by private sector entities.

The guidelines were made available to localities through the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, developed from the thought that private involvement in building municipality infrastructure could speed up the completion of much-needed projects or make them more cost effective.

The project submitted by Arrington was unsolicited, Town Attorney Steve Briglia said Monday, though the Council has discussed the possibility of a parking garage in the Church Street area in the past.

The project is planned for 120 Church Street NW, described by Planning and Zoning Director Greg Hembree as a virtually "empty lot" across from Bazin's On Church. The land originally belonged to J.T. Arrington, a longtime resident who owned the property for more than half a century before his death in 1994. His sons gained ownership of the land at that time; they formed the company Arrington LLC in 2004, according to their plan documents.

The company also owns the adjacent building that runs from Maple Avenue to Church Street, home to businesses such as and

Paul Layer, the architect for several of those projects and a member of the town's Board of Zoning Appeals involved in the Church Street Vision planning process, is also the designer of the proposed project.

Under the PPEA guidelines, the town must wait 45 days before taking action on the plan, a period designed to allow other companies to develop and submit proposals, Briglia said.

The council would not be bound to any of those alternatives, Briglia said, but the earliest it could move forward with the Arrington proposal is early May.

Height Limits

As it stands, the proposal would violate the town's code for height limitations for municipal parking structures: it reaches 50 feet, higher than the town's current 35-foot restriction in the C-1B commercial district, Hembree said.

The council approved a motion at its Monday meeting authorizing an April 16 public hearing on amending that part of the code to allow for 50-foot structures.

The change is part of a broader council discussion about redevelopment along the corridor, its current parking situation, "the necessity for relief" and how that would benefit the local businesses and residents. The council asked the Planning Commission to make a recommendation about altering the height limit in December.

On Monday, some council members took issue with the recommendation they received: to allow the height change but also amend the code so site plan modifications in the area must be approved by the planning commission before moving on to council.

Currently, the commission only makes recommendations to the council on those matters.

"There's not another instance in which the planning commission has the authority ... to approve or not a site plan [modification] and they are asking for joint approval authority," Councilwoman Edythe Kelleher said. "If they didn’t approve it we couldn’t approve it either," she said.

The council largely didn't agree with that part of the recommendation, but decided to seek input on it along with expanding the height restriction at the April 16 hearing.

For more on the plans, click the cover drawing PDF in the media player above.

Bruce Wright March 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Maybe if we encouraged more people to bike for local trips and we provided more bike parking people would drive less and there would be less need for car parking. One structured car parking space costs about $15,000-$20,000. A bike parking space costs about $300. The Town is doing a great job recently encouraging bike parking, but many stores do not have any bike parking. There are thousands of potential customers who ride through Vienna daily on the W&OD Trail. Let's provide them with some parking as well.
SL March 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
If a parking garage is built, maybe the street parking could be eliminated which would have 2 benefits. One, the width of the sidewalks could be expanded (into the previous street parking spaces) & two, congestion would be reduced by the fact that cars driving on Church wouldn't need to stop for all the cars being parallel parked and car doors being opened.
PS March 24, 2012 at 11:27 AM
I would think long and hard before agreeing to a huge structure like this on Church St. There is a very good reason Vienna has 35 ft limit, because it is protecting the image of the area. What justification is there for changing this to accommodate a parking garage. If it was something aesthetically pleasing and contributed to the image of Vienna. Yes. A parking garage will look ugly in the center of our town. Do you really want this to be the central focal point of locality? Vienna, has put in a tremendous amount of effort to make Church St look fantastic. Why spoil it now? If the studies show that parking is real problem for visitors, and constraining growth, place a parking garage in strategic location where it won't stick out like a sore thumb. e.g use the parking lot behind Magruders. These structure should be on the fringes of the town not in its heart. This is your money they are spending and its the image of your town they are playing with. One ill considered yes, and you will not be rid of this for decades. No amount of complaining will make it go away.
NTA March 28, 2012 at 03:37 AM
If you look at the drawing you will see that the retail structure masks the garage. The garage roof line will hardly be noticed -if at all-from ground/walking level on Church Street.
Chris Marchetti April 19, 2012 at 03:33 AM
We're definitely going to need traffic lights at Church St. & Lawyers Rd. if this is built, and probably at Church and Center St. too.

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