The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved General Dynamics’ plan to build a new headquarters in Reston.
The defense contractor, which currently leases space in Fairview Park, looked at many spots around the country but found that the Reston site — 22 wooded acres on Sunset Hills Road — “fit that [description] to a T,” said land use attorney Mark Looney, representing General Dynamics.
“They were looking for a facility they could own and occupy,” Looney said at the supervisors public hearing. “They wanted room for 175-200 employees that was private and natural. They don’t want to be seen and don’t want to see other people. The CEO said they were looking for a ‘jewel box in the woods.’ “
General Dynamics plans to keep 84 percent of the space as natural and wooded, adding extra privacy for the site at 11011 Sunset Hills, between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road.
The site has long been designated commercial, and General Dynamics’ plan is actually much smaller than the previous zoning approvals for three buildings and nearly 400,000 square feet, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said.
“This has been a good-news development,” said Hudgins. “The Sunset Hills Road planned development of the site was planned for much higher intensity. This really is an improvement over what zoning would have allowed.”
General Dynamics plans include three levels of below-ground parking and some surface parking for 347 cars, as well as a pocket park.
The company plans a 10-foot security fence and an access road through the property so traffic will not back up on Sunset Hills as employees and visitors go through a security check gate.
General Dynamics plans to move into the new facility in late 2018, said Looney.
Graphic: Rendering of plans for General Dynamics’ Reston headquarters/Credit: Fairfax County
General Dynamics’ plans to build a five-story office building on a wooded lot on Sunset Hills Road will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The plan has generally been well received by community members, as well as the Fairfax County Planning staff, which recommends the plan with a few conditions.
The 21.69-acre site between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road is a heavily treed, previously undeveloped lot. But it has been approved for years for a developer to build three, five-story buildings or about 358,000 square feet. Also approved: three levels of below grade structured parking designed for 297 spaces and the option for surface parking spaces on the south side of the building.
What General Dynamics has proposed is one, five story building at about 190,000 square feet, with an option for a 30,000-square-foot addition in the future.
GD also plans a reduction in parking from 572 spaces to 347 spaces.
GD, which currently leases office space in Fairview Park, previously said it was drawn to the site because it could build to its specifications, including a security fence and an “arrival pavilion” that would provide security checks on the property’s access road.
The company also plans to preserve most of the trees. GD has asked to build a 10-foot security fence along the perimeter, which has previously been approved for a 4-foot fence.
What concerned community members at a previous meeting was potential traffic backups on Sunset Hills Road as the proposed building is not in walking distance of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro.
The county staff report recommends widening Sunset Hills Road to four lanes. Nearly two acres has been dedicated for such road widening as part of the previous approvals. The report says Sunset Hills’ eastbound improvements include the addition of a 150-foot left turn lane with a 100-foot taper into Dressage Drive and a 250-foot right turn lane with a 100-foot taper into the site.
Westbound improvements on Sunset Hills Road include a 175-foot left turn lane with a 100-foot taper into the site. Curb and gutter will be provided along the frontage on the south side of Sunset Hills Road. On the north side of Sunset Hills Road, a 4-foot wide shoulder will be provided to improve the almost non-existent shoulder along the road.
GD likely won’t construct the lanes, but has carried forward a proffer commitment to be able to request a waiver and to escrow funds in lieu
of construction of any remaining frontage improvements and has “included a cap to the escrow amount based on the cost to construct the frontage improvements today.” The planning staff is reviewing the escrow amount to ensure that it would be adequate for the frontage
GD would also need to address stormwater management when Sunset Hills is widened. The applicant has also proffered to design and construct the on-site stormwater management facilities to accommodate stormwater runoff from a fully improved Sunset Hills Road, the staff report says.
More traffic considerations: The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) recommends that the site access occur from the previously approved western entrance opposite Business Center Drive.
This would cut down on traffic affecting residential properties that are further east along Sunset Hills Road. FCDOT also recommends installing a traffic signal there to cut down on delays at rush hour. GD has offered to proffer money for the signal.
Photo: Location of proposed General Dynamics campus/Credit: Fairfax County
Defense contractor General Dynamics, which plans to construct a new headquarters in Reston, has a Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing scheduled for Sept. 14.
The company announced in January it hopes to build a 190,000-square-foot building on a parcel off Sunset Hills Road between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road and bordered on one edge by the W&OD Trail.
The plan itself was generally well received at a community meeting in January. What GD plans to build is actually well below what was long-ago approved for the parcel. GD plans one five-story building for about 200 employees.
The site was approved by Fairfax County in 1999 for nearly 358,000 square feet of space spread over three buildings, as well as nearly 1,200 parking spaces.
The current footprint is much smaller, but does allow for a 30,000-square-foot-addition to the building in the future. GD plans 300 mostly underground parking spaces to go with the first phase of the plan.
Because of the secure nature of GD’s operations, the company plans an interior road, no public access, a guard gate and security fencing. It also plans to keep most of the forested area for a natural privacy shield and sound barrier.
A staff report detailing more plans and results of a traffic study should be available Sept. 1.
That plan may detail what GD plans to do, if anything, for traffic management on Sunset Hills.
The potential traffic problems were a citizen concern at January’s meeting.
A General Dynamics representative said then the company is not obligated to make traffic improvements, but may eventually give money to the Virginia Department of Transportation for road widening. The property rights include a 1 1/2 acre stretch along Sunset Hills that can be used for an additional lane.
In addition to the traffic impact studies, GD has surveyed employees to see how many would plan on taking Metro to Wiehle-Reston East (nearby, but not necessarily walking distance) and boarding a shuttle.
Residents who live in the Equestrian Park neighborhood, also off of that area of Sunset Hills, say traffic is already bad.
“Sunset Hills Road 45 years ago is exactly the same way it is today,” one resident said at the January meeting. “Every other road has been brought into the 21st Century. This is the perfect time to bring [Sunset Hills] into the 21st Century.”
GD reps say the approval process should take until the end of 2016. Construction would take place in 2017 and 2018. General Dynamics’ Fairview Park lease ends at the end of 2018, at which point it would move into the new building.
Defense contractor General Dynamics envisions one five-story building nestled into a wooded area off Sunset Hills Road in Reston for its new headquarters. It’s a complex with a small footprint, an unobtrusive security fence and on-site amenities for about 200 employees.
However, it is not the plans themselves that worry nearby residents and workers — it’s the added stress to Sunset Hills Road, which is two lanes in most spots and is already often a traffic jam during rush hour.
“I think it is a spectacular site plan,” said one citizen at a community meeting with General Dynamics representatives at South Lakes High School on Wednesday. “But Sunset Hills Road 45 years ago is exactly the same way it is today. Every other road has been brought into the 21st Century. This is the perfect time to bring [Sunset Hills] into the 21st Century.”
General Dynamics announced last week it intends to build a 190,000-square-foot headquarters on a 22-acre lot currently owned by Boston Properties. The project would have 300 parking spaces, most of them in a below-ground garage.
The site is at 11011 Sunset Hills, between Wiehle Avenue and Hunter Mill Road and bordered on one edge by the W&OD Trail.
There would be a guard house, but it would be set back into the property in an effort to avoid backups onto Sunset Hills at rush hour, said land use attorney Mark Looney, who is representing General Dynamics.
Looney said General Dynamics, which currently has about 1,000 employees in Fair Lakes and about 200 in Fairview Park (Falls Church), looked at many sites around the DC area before picking the Reston land.
“From a security standpoint, they wanted a facility where they would be the sole tenant,” he said. “They also wanted the build into a natural environment rather than be in an urban setting, but still be in close proximity to services and transportation.”
The site was approved by Fairfax County in 1999 for nearly 358,000 square feet of space spread over three buildings, as well as nearly 1,200 parking spaces, said Looney. The current footprint is much smaller, but does allow for a 30,000-square-foot-addition to the building in the future.
General Dynamics intends to keep many of the trees and plans to plant more during the construction process to build a natural privacy shield and sound barrier, said Looney.
He also said that there would be no public access to the site from the W&OD for security reasons.
The unobtrusive plans were fairly well received by citizens at the meeting. Their main concern was the potential traffic.
Looney said General Dynamics is not obligated to make traffic improvements, but may eventually give money to the Virginia Department of Transportation for road widening. The property rights include a 1 1/2 acre swath along Sunset Hills that can be used for an additional lane.
Two traffic impact studies are in the works and should be finished in the next few weeks, said Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. Eventually, those findings may have an impact on road improvements. Looney said General Dynamics has also surveyed employees to see how many would plan on taking Metro to Wiehle-Reston East (nearby, but not necessarily walking distance) and boarding a shuttle.
That was good news to a resident of Equestrian Park, the residential development that has its main entrance on Sunset Hills Road, across from the General Dynamics site.
“We don’t go out for groceries between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” he said. “We can’t get out of our neighborhood. Traffic is that bad.”
Said Hudgins: “Studies are being done for that specific purpose. Improvements have to be made.”
Looney said several changes will probably be made to the site plan before final approval by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The plans need to go through Fairfax County Planning & Zoning, the county planning commission and the board of supervisors.
He said he expects that to take most of 2016. Construction would take place in 2017 and 2018. General Dynamics’ Fairview Park lease ends at the end of 2018, at which point it would move into the new building.
Photo: Future site of General Dynamics HQ on Sunset Hills