Another Suburban D.C. Office Building Is Getting Converted To Apartments
Owners of aging Northern Virginia office buildings are increasingly looking to convert them to residential, with the latest project planned in Fairfax.
The 15-acre site at 3211 Jermantown Road and 10530 Rosehaven St. consists of two office buildings with surface parking. A&A Properties acquired the buildings in January 2016 for a combined $31M from Lerner Enterprises, which developed the Flint Hill office park in the 1980s.
The property sits near the interchange of Route 66 and Chain Bridge Road, about 3 miles from the Vienna-Fairfax-GMU Metro station, the terminus of the Orange Line. It is roughly a mile from the Giant-anchored Oakton Shopping Center.
The application calls for demolishing one office building and adapting the other into 117 apartments. In place of the demolished building, it would construct up to 125 townhouses and up to 166 "two-over-two" units.
The building it would adaptively reuse is an eight-story, 160K SF property that was built in 1985, four years after the six-story building it plans to demolish. The development would also feature 4.7 acres of open space.
Wire Gill LLP co-founder and partner David Gill, the developer's land-use attorney, told Bisnow A&A Properties decided to adaptively reuse the eight-story building because it is newer and because it has underground structured parking. He also said it wanted a mix of housing types on the site.
"On the residential side, it spreads the risk when you have two housing types and it's not just townhomes," Gill said. "If you want to spread the risk, you look at multifamily at the same time."
The developer hopes to complete the zoning and permitting processes within two years and break ground by the end of 2022, Gill said.
Northern Virginia's office vacancy rate as of Q3 stood at 18.9%, according to JLL, and vacancy in the Fairfax City submarket was 15.4%.
Gill said properties like the Flint Hill office park have struggled to attract tenants as the Silver Line has created a movement toward transit-oriented, mixed-use environments in the area.
"Office has been struggling, especially in the suburbs, there has been a flight to quality," Gill said. "Office-only environments are very tough sells right now. The question is 'What do you do with the existing infrastructure?' And multifamily is the only thing that makes sense."
Many other developers have come to the same conclusion. Flint Hill is the latest proposal in a series of office-to-residential conversion projects to move forward in Northern Virginia.
In 2018, Perseus launched the conversion of a vacant Alexandria office building into 520 apartments, a project that delivered this year. Last year, Peterson Cos. filed plans to convert a Fairfax County office building into senior living.
In March, Highland Square Holdings delivered 156 live-work units in a converted Falls Church office building. In September, Fairfax County approved a proposal from Highland Square to convert three buildings at the Skyline office park into 720 live-work units.
The conversion strategy is appealing to owners because demand has been stronger for residential than office space in the area, but the differences in layout between the two property types can make it difficult for the projects to work.
"It's a challenge because office product doesn't necessarily line up with residential product," Gill said. "The depth of the building, the amount of windows, the amount of fixtures is very different in both, and sometimes it's hard to make those line up."