Post #343: Where’s Wawa, MODIFIED 8/15/2019

Posted on August 10, 2019

EDIT/ADDENDUM:  After I wrote this, a colleague directed me to look at the Fairfax FIDO website.  There, you can look up the status of all Fairfax County building permits, for any building in the Town of Vienna.  Based on that, the Wawa application for a permit to operate a food service establishment is still active.  (In fact, now that I look closely, they have half-a-dozen permits, everything from signs to electrical work to interior remodeling).  As of now, based on that, it definitely appears that Wawa is coming to Vienna.  Despite the prominent “for rent” sign that remains up at that property.

Original posting follows:

As noted in this earlier post, and continuing to Post #241, earlier this year, Wawa sought and obtained approval to remake the Coldwell Banker building (corner of Nutley and Maple) into a Wawa convenience store.  

Meanwhile, yet a different entity sought permission to revive the dead gas station at Maple and Park, and add a full-sized convenience store. 

This led me to speculate that we were going to end up with more full-sized convenience stores than the Town of Vienna could support.  At least based on the history of 7-11s in Vienna (outlined in this post).  If all this planned development occurred, we’d have four full-sized convenience stores, plus mini-marts at some of the gas stations.  Whereas the Town did not appear to be able to support three 7-11s.  (The third Vienna 7-11 was located at Maple and Courthouse.)

Anyway, a colleague pointed out that the property-for-rent sign has not come down at the Coldwell Banker building.  To the contrary, it looks like they put up a brand new and more prominent sign.

So that’s a bit of a puzzler.  And a bit of a worry.  For the following reasons:

  1.  One corner of that intersection is already slated to be covered by a big MAC building (444 Maple West/Tequila Grande).  You have to wonder whether somebody will want to build its twin right across the street.
  2. The building next door to Coldwell Banker is also vacant (the former Joe’s Pasta), and is being offered for rent by the same company handling the former Coldwell Banker building.
  3. In a prior Town Council session, one Town Council member let slip that it would be OK to lengthen the left-turn-lane on Nutley, at that intersection, because the buildings across the street would be combined anyway (and so would still have a viable entrance on Maple).  So, apparently, almost a year ago, something may or may not have been in the works regarding those properties.
  4. For these narrow, deep lots, erasing a lot line (combining lots) is hugely profitable under MAC, because it allows much more building to be built on the same acreage, assuming that individual buildings on individual lots would sit five or ten feet off the common lot line.
  5. But, isn’t the Town going to extend the moratorium on new MAC buildings?  That seems to be the common assumption, but so far there has been no discussion and no progress on that.  And time is short, as noted in Post #323 and Post #325.
  6. And maybe they don’t need MAC.  It sure looks like 901 Glyndon may have set a precedent of unquestioned by-right construction of two floors of housing over one floor of retail, merely by the Town declaring that such a building is “primarily occupied” for commercial use.  In other words, it looks like Town staff can simply declare that three-story mixed-use construction (two floors of housing over one floor of retail) is now OK, by right, under Vienna’s standard commercial zoning.

Maybe that new sign is just a harmless bit of theater.  It might be there just to help reinforce the narrative that Maple Avenue retail is in crisis.  Then again, maybe it means that Wawa changed its mind.  All told, I think I’ll feel more comfortable when I see Wawa get started on making over the Coldwell Banker building.