Post #466: Unabashed rumor-mongering

Posted on November 21, 2019

The picture above is from a post I did more than a year ago, where I pointed out how at-risk-for-redevelopment my end of Maple Avenue was.  I figure it’s time to update that, and spread a few rumors while I’m at it.

First, the areas labeled as “proposals” above are now approved MAC projects.  The lower two will be 444 Maple West, 151 apartments plus copious retail space.  The third was passed as condos plus retail, but now appears on track to become an assisted living facility with a modest cafe space.

Second, Wawa has taken one of the empty buildings.

Third, I didn’t put it on this chart, but some of the nearby buildings were hugely in arrears on their taxes, suggesting that they were not long for this world.  And the lowest building I have labeled as “empty” is not completely empty, it’s just the bank space that’s vacant.

So, first, let me update that picture.  (The underlying map here is copyrighted by Google.  I managed to clip that off of this image, so I need to say that separately).

I have mentioned the tax issue in prior posts.  Here are the Fairfax County tax map references for the Amphora and Amphora Bakery.

Circled in red is an area of roughly 4 acres, of which two-thirds is either vacant or in arrears on taxes.

Now for the rumor-mongering.

We already have a hint that something is in the works there from a comment made last year, by one of the pro-MAC Town Council members, during discussion of 444 Maple West.  When the issue of road changes restricting access to the Polish Market building, she said (and I paraphrase), “Don’t worry about that, all those buildings are going to combine anyway”.   Meaning, once that entire side of the street was redeveloped, they could move the entrance further up Maple so that it was not blocked by a longer left-turn lane to access the 444 Maple West development.

And now the current rumor is that the redevelopment of that side of the block is now in the works.  The rumor is that the land has been purchased, and that the purchases should show up soon in official records.  Which, I guess, means checking the Fairfax County tax website off and on to see if those parcels have changed hands.

To be clear, this is a vague rumor, not fact.  I think it’s worth making public for a handful of reasons. 

First, it’s a heads-up to the nearby neighbors in Windover Heights.  (Although clearly they know these properties are in play, as Kensington Assisted Living had already talked to the neighbors there.)  Second, if true, it would more than double the new development in my neighborhood, making it all the more important for us to get the Town to do something for us about cut-through traffic.  Third, we now have the potential for another large monolithic building to match 444 Maple West.

Fourth, if developed at the typical MAC density so far, these properties would add another 400 residents (100/acre) to this block.  That’s in addition to the roughly 250 that will live at 444 Maple West.  That may not sound like much, but add in the Sunrise assisted living facility, and one Vienna resident in 20 will be living on this block.

With more-or-less zero planning and foresight, we will have shifted the commercial center of Vienna to the Maple/Nutley intersection.  As I like to say about the next step in Vienna’s strategic plan for Maple Avenue, we’ll know what it is when the next developer tells us.

And speaking of traffic, this block will now get roughly one-twentieth of all the residential traffic in the Town of Vienna.  That’s in addition to whatever traffic the Chick-fil-a-car-wash draws.  Plus whoever stops by the Wawa.  On top of the traffic that the Nutley/Maple intersection already routinely has.

Fifth, money talks.  With that much money in play, you have to wonder how this will now warp the proposed changes to MAC zoning.  The two maps that Planning and Zoning has drawn up for a proposed MAC both exclude this area from the MAC zone.  If the properties are sold, it’ll be amusing to see how they justify bringing these areas back into the MAC zone.  (There is yet a third map — outlined live during a meeting, and specifically requested by Councilman Noble, that would restrict MAC solely to commercial lots not adjacent to residential property.  You will never see that map out of Planning and Zoning, because that would exclude the Giant Food property.  And so, by analogy, if this goes through, they’re going to have to justify redrawing the MAC zone map to include this.)

Well, that’s clearly enough rambling.  I don’t have to commute, my kids are out of high school.  So I guess this is somebody else’s problem, as long as I can keep the cut-through traffic from ruining my neighborhood.