South Elden Street Rezoning

Earlier this February an updated area plan for South Elden Street, from Herndon Parkway to Sterling Road, was approved by the town council as an amendment to the comprehensive town plan. The plan re-zones areas of the corridor to allow for increased flexibility in densities, land uses, and building dimensions standards along with a plan to improve traffic flow that will make the area more friendly to walking, biking, and public buses. Improving traffic flow as density increases is paramount, as the area already receives a lot of foot traffic from the surrounding neighborhoods due to bus stops and shops. The town applied for and received a state technical assistance grant to help with traffic studies and while you can find more information on the future road improvements on the town website, this article is meant to provide perspective on the zoning changes.

The plan’s goal is to transform the area into a mixed-use transit enhanced neighborhood with office, retail, and residential properties that residents can walk to without using an automobile. It re-zones the area to 5 sub areas with density guidelines on a 1-5 tier scale that facilitate future redevelopment. A map of the areas and their rezoned density level is shown below.

Tier 1 — North End Transitional — Parcels closest to the Sterling Road and Heritage Preservation District. Allowed future use: No change.

Tier 2 — Transitional Urban Residential- – Parcels behind the H-Mart shopping center that do not abut Elden Street. Underutilized office space. Allowed future use: townhouses and 2-over-2 townhome condos.

Tier 3 — South Elden Commercial — Parcels south of the Verizon site, Amphora site, and north of Alabama Drive adjacent the middle school. Allowed future uses: Commercial with densities of 0.3 floor area ratio (FAR) for properties zoned Commercial Service (CS) and 0.5 FAR for properties zoned Commercial Office (CO).

Tier 4 — South Elden Neighborhood Mixed-Use — Parcels directly north of the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Elden Street along with the property south of Herndon Parkway on the east side of Elden Street and a parcel north of Alabama Drive on the West side of Elden Street. This is the largest group of parcels with biggest zoning change. Allowed future use: Vertical or horizontal mixed-use with future densities of 24 units per acre with up to 30 units per acre on properties abutting commercial or multi-family development. This density provides for retention of commercial square footage while adding multi-family units.

Tier 5 — South Elden Gateway — Parcel south of Herndon Parkway and on the west side of Elden Street. Multiple street access enables parcel to be appropriate for vertical mixed use. Allowed future use: Vertical mixed-use and some horizontal mixed-use for transitioning purposes with future densities of up to 45 units per acre. This density provides for retention of commercial square footage, also while adding multi-family units. Note: if entire site is redeveloped at once, parcel is eligible for increased density limit.

To put these density levels in perspective, I’ve provided a map showing the scale of buildings that can be developed in the corridor. There are no guarantees that future development will max out the new density levels permitted with the zoning change, but the older/vacant buildings in the corridor make it ripe for future development, especially with the metro’s Silver Line extension coming in the next few years. That said, don’t expect to see large scale redevelopment in this area for a good 10-15 years, as town officials said this will be slow-moving and re-development of the streetscape is part of the Smart Scale plan which could receive funding for engineering design in 2024. The corridor’s further proximity to metro stops (approx. 0.75 miles from Innovation Station and approx. 1 mile from Herndon-Monroe) also plays into the longer timeline, whereas large-scale development within a quarter mile of these stops will happen in 5 years or less. We’ve already seen large-scale development begin south of the Innovation Station stop. The Herndon Transit-Orientation Core (HTOC) north of the Herndon-Monroe stop will start developing over the next coming years.


(Images and information via town council public hearing on Feburary 12, 2019 and Fairfax County website.)

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