Fairfax City Council Weighs in on Hotel Project

Concerned about traffic, but excited about the idea.

After listening to last week’s presentation about a major hotel and associated amenities possibly coming to Fairfax, members of the City Council had suggestions, questions and concerns. But no doubt about it – what they heard also got them excited.

Councilwoman Jennifer Passey liked the idea of “bringing some vibrancy” to the area of West and Main streets and was also pleased that the game industry could come to Fairfax. And, she said, “I see the open space as a continuation of our downtown park.”

Councilwoman So Lim asked what kind of residential units are planned, but applicant Chris Smith said they’re looking at all the other uses first and then will decide, “This would be exciting for the City – especially the theater and partnership with George Mason – as long as we can keep the traffic under control,” said Lim.

“Where would the theater fit in?” asked Councilwoman Janice Miller. Smith said it would be in the hotel. But, said architect Faik Tugberk, actually two theaters are planned. One is a round, Shakespearean-type for performances; the other, much smaller, would be like a black-box theater of 6,000 or 7,000 square feet and would be for the gaming use.

Councilman Michael DeMarco said Fairfax and GMU have discussed “having a true, theatrical performance space with a real stage, instead of a black box. It would be nice to have a 12,000-square-foot, 200-person theater.” Smith replied, “If we can fit it, we’ll do it.”

“I’m excited about the idea of getting people to come and stay here,” said Councilman Jon Stehle. “And to give a space, off campus, for that to occur, is fantastic. We don’t have rooftops where people can have special moments; and if you give people that space, they’ll come back.”

Agreeing, Councilman Sang Yi said, “I love this concept and what it could do for our City. The economic boon it could provide is incredible. But I’m terrified about the traffic it could bring.” He then asked the applicant to study “having all the North-Main-West street traffic go east,” instead of straight onto Main, as now.

But if that happened, countered Smith, “Then people coming to this project from the west wouldn’t be able to get into it easily. And the traffic coming here from the west would turn into the hotel before reaching that intersection.”

Yi also wondered if there’d be enough parking for the theater, but Smith said the various uses would happen at different times, so traffic wouldn’t all flow in there at the same time. Tugbert added that, once ground was broken, it would take about two years to build everything.

“There’s strong support for doing something bold on this site,” said Mayor David Meyer. “In keeping with our Comprehensive Plan, this creates another activity area along Main Street and it would create adjacent destination places. And creating more variety of experiences brings diversity to downtown. This intersection has the potential to be one of our leading intersections.”

“We have more than one community theater, and they’re hungry for a place to perform,” he told the applicant. “The hotel speaks for itself – we have to have that to make the other things work and to attract a flagship vendor with staying power. There are still a lot of issues to be worked out; but overall, it’s quite positive. I encourage you to continue to work with staff and put in further details, and I commend you on the quality of thought you put into this project.”

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