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API Building Gets a New Vote — With Same Results — at Fairfax Planning Commission

by Karen Goff — July 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm 10 Comments

Former API BuildingThe Fairfax County Planning Commission had a “do over” of sorts on Thursday regarding the former American Press Institute building.

The planning commission had to go back and take another look at its June vote to recommend denial of Sekas Homes’ plan to tear down the Brutalist office building and build 34 townhouses and 10 condos in its place along Sunrise Valley Drive.

After the historical significance of the Marcel Breuer building — the only structure in Virginia designed by the famous architect — was brought to the planning commission’s attention fairly late in the application process, the commission reached a tie when voting for a recommendation for denial last month.

The board sent the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. However, it was then brought to the planning commission’s attention that that recommendation was not valid since it needs a majority vote.

“Under the county zoning ordinance, the planning commission can only take valid action only if authorized by a majority,” said Hunter Mill PC representative Frank de le Fe. “As a result, our votes did not constitute any action.”

The board then held some discussion on parking considerations, but nothing about the historical preservation of the building.

In the end, it voted Thursday 7-4 for denial of the project. The Board of Supervisors will make a final ruling at a date not yet determined.

The building, which housed API from 1974 to 2012, has been empty for four years.

Former API employees and architectural historians began protesting the plans and signing a petition last spring to make the planning commission aware of the building’s historic significance. There has also been a grassroots effort to get Fairfax County officials to consider turning the building into a public library.

The building has not been considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because it is less than 50 years old.

  • Greg

    Just look at that image. What’s significant or attractive or useful about the building? it’s a depressing, dark, ugly concrete bunker. Tear it down.

    • Realty Shill

      Basically you re lobbying for more traffic. As for the building to replace freedom of the press it will be highly unlikely that architecture features will pass anything beyond neo brutality so perhaps just rest in confidence that weeds and wild grass will soon cover the “eye sore”.

      • Greg

        “Basically,” we are not “lobbying” for anything. This concrete bunker was ugly when built and it’s not grown prettier with time. And, as usual, neither the RA nor the county are enforcing their covenants (overgrown vegetation, broken windows, stained and discolored concrete, signage, etc,) Shame on them.

        Four years is more than enough for someone to find an adaptive re-use, and nothing has come forth. Putting a library there, at public expense, is a disastrous idea and will surely generate far more traffic, 7 days a week, than the proposed housing.

        As to what freedom of the press has to do with any of this…boggles the mind.

  • Mike M

    I’m confused.
    “The planning commission had to go back and take another look at its June vote to recommend denial of Sekas Homes’ plan . . .”

    I thought they voted to approve? And now they have done so again? Is it the heat? Me or you?

    • Karen Goff

      They recommended denial, but it came from a tied vote. Click on the link where it says that in the article above and it will take you to the June 17 story.

      • John Farrell

        The effect of the prior 4-4 votes was that the Commission had taken no action and made no recommendation.

  • Why do you bother?

    At this rate, the debate will go on until historic status is achieved.

  • Fairfax Library Advocates

    The public hearing for the API building is up on the Board of Supervisors calendar for July 26 at 4:30 pm. At 48,000 sq ft the API building is big enough for a regional library. The current Reston library is due to be bulldozed shortly and replaced with three high-rise apartment buildings with the library going in on the ground floor of one building. Underground parking is going to be very restricted and if things go ahead like the plan for the proffered library at Greensboro station, we will likely have to pay for the parking that is available.

    • Arielle in NoVA

      If they start requiring paid parking at the library, which is a horrible idea, we will use the Herndon branch instead of the Reston branch.

  • 30yearsinreston

    tear it down

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