Elm Street prepares for construction of multifamily housing at Mount Vernon Gateway


Conceptual architectural rendering of Elm Street's multifamily residential building (Credit: Fairfax County/mv+a)

Property demolition and site clearing activities are underway for the impending construction of a multifamily residential building in a suburban neighborhood between Hybla Valley and South County. The nearly five-and-a-half-acre site will eventually be home to a five-floor, 280-unit apartment building that represents the first phase of the “Mount Vernon Gateway” project.

According to Nick Flanagan, partner and vice president at Elm Street Communities, the developer recently razed eight homes and cleaned up an area along a portion of Rolling Hills Avenue between Buckman Road and Richmond Highway. Once Elm Street secures approvals for the site plan and building permits, they will begin construction — potentially by late 2024, said Flanagan. In the meantime, they will select a contractor and begin utility work.

View down Rolling Hills Avenue from Buckman Road

The new residential complex, tentatively called “Elms Mount Vernon,” will include a fitness center, resident lounge, interior courtyard, bike storage/racks, swimming pool and public amenities, including urban parks, tot lot, dog park and exercise stations, according to the final development plan approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (BOS) as part of Elm Street’s rezoning process in April 2022. The new building will feature sustainable design and largely native plant-based landscaping and will have at least 10 electric vehicle recharging stations and underground utilities.

Swimming pool and dog park landscape detail plan (Credit: Fairfax County/VIKA Virginia)

Twenty-nine of the housing complex’s 280 units are slated to become workforce dwelling units, which provide qualified households with low and moderate incomes an opportunity to pay reduced rent.

Flanagan said they anticipate the project will be complete about two years after the kick-off of construction. It is likely, he added, that Elm Street could finish the building process before the Virginia Department of Transportation finishes widening Richmond Highway in front of the Mount Vernon Gateway area. Eventually, after the widening, the new apartment building will be adjacent to Route 1 and its new sidewalk and bike path, said Flanagan.

Rendering of site before VDOT widens Richmond Highway (Credit: Fairfax County/VIKA Virginia)

Elm Street’s project is part of a larger plan approved by the county back in 2005 to develop a total of 17 acres between Buckman, Richmond Highway and Janna Lee Avenue. That plan, which originally envisioned a mixed-use development encompassing multifamily housing, single family attached homes and office/retail, has been on hold due to various reasons, “including market considerations,” according to Elm Street’s rezoning records.

Market changes over the years indeed stalled progress, said Jeff McKay, who worked on the site’s development for decades as the former Lee (now Franconia) District Supervisor and more recently as BOS chairman. However, the “huge investment” the county is making in bus rapid transit and other pedestrian and environmental improvements around the Richmond Highway Corridor is making sites like Mount Vernon Gateway “increasingly attractive to redevelop into the high-quality residential use that is greatly needed,” he said.

“I am happy that this development is finally moving forward after more than 20 years of community engagement,” said McKay.

With the impending construction of the multifamily housing building, Elm Street leaders hope to spur the independent owners of other parcels of Mount Vernon Gateway to take action as well. In its approved development plan, Elm Street provided county staff with a conceptual design of how the rest of Mount Vernon Gateway might look after phase two construction — with additional green space and town homes located just south of the multifamily housing complex along Janna Lee Drive.

Some of the remaining parcels potentially could be acquired, rezoned and developed by Elm Street, said Flanagan. “We want to make the area great,” he said.

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