ULI Washington News

Mosaic at Merrifield Case Study Site Visit

Event PowerPoint Presentation link.

The Urban Land Institute’s Washington Chapter recently held a Members Case Study visit to the initial phase of Mosaic at Merrifield, a 1.9 million SF urban infill redevelopment project located in Merrifield, a rapidly urbanizing development area of Fairfax County, VA, about 3 miles from Tyson’s Corner.   The Mosaic project represents a successful 15 year public/private partnership between Fairfax County government and EDENS, a $4 billion dollar development company based in Columbia SC and active in markets from Boston to Miami.

Formerly the 31 acre site of a cinema multiplex and surface parking owned by Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements Inc., the Mosaic site and surrounding area were initially identified by Fairfax County as a priority redevelopment site in 1998.  When complete, the Mosaic Project is programmed to include 500,000 SF of retail, 1,000 residential units (multifamily and 138 townhouses), 73,000 sf of office space, a 148-key boutique hotel by Hyatt, 4,000 parking spaces (street-level and structured), and two parks.  The retail component includes a 150,000 sf Target Store (located on the 4th floor of a retail and parking building), a Neiman-Marcus Last Call Studio concept store, and an eight-screen Angelika Cinema, the fourth location of the independent/art film-oriented Angelika Theater which originated in SoHo, Manhattan and with two locations in the Dallas area developed about 10 years ago.  These uses are complemented by an additional 35-40 restaurants, gourmet foods and wines and specialty goods retailers arrayed along an urban street grid connecting the entire site.  The overall retail mix was carefully structured to create a distinct mix and shopping destination differentiated from the national chain tenants and shopping mall-dominated Tyson’s Corner area, which has over 4 million sf of retail.  Mosaic was consciously positioned to be different from Tyson’s Corner and non-duplicated in other locations.

Mosaic’s 15 year development process resulted in several evolving visions of the project’s design as well as in the nature of the partnership between the developer and Fairfax County government.  As explained by Barbara Byron, Director of the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization and Redevelopment, Fairfax County was “more accustomed to ‘getting’ from developers than giving g back to them”.   The strong demographics of the Merrifield Market, size of the assembled site, high road counts on adjacent Lee Highway and proximity of the Dunn Loring Metro station nearby all convinced EDENS and the County to work through evolving plans to create an urban center in what had been a very suburban environment.  The allowed FAR on the site was rezoned to 1.2, and the County provided its first-ever TIF funding to contribute toward Mosaic’s parking structures and other infrastructure.

Jodie W. McLean, President and Chief Investment Office of EDENS, cited the strong public/private partnership with the County and managed by Byron and County officials over many years as critical elements in completion of the project, whose first phase opened earlier in 2013.  This was despite challenges (several economic cycles, funding the project in the 2008 financial downturn) and opportunity (to purchase 25 acres from National Amusements at a more beneficial price).  Patience, a commitment to high quality urban design and architecture and involvement by sophisticated residential developers like EYA, Avalon Bay and Mill Creek have all contributed toward redevelopment of the site into a town center that is serving community needs and creating successful new town center for Fairfax County.

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