Split Council Approves Virginia Village Redevelopment

Transformation is coming to the heart of Leesburg’s Crescent District, and one of Loudoun’s oldest retail centers.

In a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, the Leesburg Town Council gave a green light to plans to redevelop the Virginia Village shopping center into a mixed-use development, with 643 planned residential units, office, retail, and restaurant space, several parking facilities, and more greenspace than the property has seen in its 60-plus years.

The redevelopment project by Virginia Village owner Brian Cullen of Keane Enterprises involved a three-fold application: a Town Plan amendment to change 2.68 acres of the 18.48-acre property from a Downtown designation to Crescent Design District; rezoning the entire 18.48 acres to CD-RH (Crescent District-Residential High Density) or CD-CC (Crescent District-Commercial Corridor); and a special exception to permit alteration of the floodplain along a portion of the Town Branch to permit the construction of a pedestrian bridge linking the development to Harrison Street and Raflo Park.

Cullen has long referred to the project as a “reimagined” vision of the retail area, and a test for the Town Council and the town at large on its vision for the Crescent District. The redevelopment plan calls for a mixed-use community with ample green and amenity spaces, parking structures mostly hidden within buildings in keeping with the town’s Crescent Design District standards, and 643 residential units—the majority of which are multi-family units for rent—with over 165,000 square feet of commercial uses throughout the property, the majority of which are located below residences. 

Lingering concerns voiced by town staff in the final staff report provided to the council were the phasing of the development, with 100% of planned residential units constructed by the end of phase 2b, compared to only 59% of commercial space. In addition, the staff voiced concerns that the proposed development would contain only 21% of commercial gross floor area, with the Zoning Ordinance requiring residential rezonings with the Crescent District to devote at least 40% of the gross floor area of a development to nonresidential uses. 

In a revised proffer sent to the council ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Cullen addressed some of the outstanding concerns, committing to providing 33 Affordable Dwelling Units within the community, even if less than 643 residential units are ultimately built; increasing the number of parking spaces designated for the residential units; and opening the door to building the central commercial building earlier in the phasing plan.

Speakers addressing the council before the vote raised concerns over the scale of the buildings, the number of planned parking spaces, traffic impacts, and the size and timing of the commercial development. The town Planning Commission had recommended denial of the project after months of review and Chairwoman Gigi Robinson was among the speakers urging denial and continuing to push for more parking and commercial space in the plan. Other speakers supported the plans as an important redevelopment opportunity for the town, one in line with its adopted planning policies. 

The council’s comments were similarly split.

Councilman Zach Cummings made the motion to approve the applications, stating the project fit with the Town Plan goals. Council members Ara Bagdasarian, Kari Nacy and Marty Martinez also supported the project, saying it would create a more vibrant, walkable community with a wide range of housing types and new economic development opportunities.

“This application is pioneering, with a nearly $200 million plus investment in Leesburg,” Cummings said, noting the number of proffered Affordable Dwelling Units would be the most ever built in town and expressing confident the development will spur new businesses and economic benefits for the town. “I see the potential and am excited at the opportunity to see Leesburg prosper with an investment of this nature.”

An aerial view of the rendering of the forthcoming mixed-use development on the Virginia Village shopping center property. [Contributed]

Bagdasarian recalled his time as a volunteer on the town’s Economic Development Commission more than a decade ago when plans were created to promote redevelopment in the Crescent District, to expand the downtown and keep higher density development closer to the town core. “We had a shared vision for a vibrant downtown that was a designation for arts, entertainment and dining and an ideal place to live, work and play,” he said.

“We all have different perspectives about what the future of the town will look like. We all want to maintain the character of the town. We all want a more walkable community. We all want plenty of parking and manageable traffic,” he continued. “Rather than try to predict the future, we have an opportunity to build the future. A future that has been envisioned by our community for decades.”

Mayor Kelly Burk and council members Neil Steinberg and Suzanne Fox voted against approving the applications, citing concerns over parking, traffic, the ratio of residential and commercial space and the mass of the proposed buildings.

Burk said that, as someone who lives near the property and frequently walks to the shopping center, she was disappointed to not be able to support the project. Although it included many positive elements, she said the outstanding concerns were too many to overcome.

Steinberg raised concerns about putting the high-density project in an area of town with a limited transportation network and the large number of policy modifications needed to accommodate the project. He suggested the council wait for a different proposal to come in for the property.

13 thoughts on “Split Council Approves Virginia Village Redevelopment

  • 2022-01-12 at 9:51 am
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    I tend to side with opponents of this project. It’s wonderful that more housing will come to Leesburg. But only 33 dwelling units would be “affordable”? And Mr. Cullen hasn’t put in writing what the so-called affordable rents will be — and how long they will remain at that price. I say, “Back to the drawing board.” Happy MLK Day Loudoun!

    • 2022-01-13 at 10:23 am
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      Affordable housing!? No such thing in Loudoun. I am fortunate to not have a mortgage but if I had one or had to pay rent I would have to work full time to supplement my social security. Property taxes on an 1100 Sq ft condo are over $2k! Thank God I’m considered poor and get these deferred! Oh, on THAT note … The qualifications for that deferment are way too liberal.

  • 2022-01-12 at 10:06 am
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    It’s not perfect, but it is a vast improvement over what is currently there…a bunch of old nondescript buildings.

    While I do like the development Leesburg has undertaken in the past decade, it is time to pay the transportation piper. Colonial roads can’t handle the traffic. With this development, Leesburg has met its saturation point.

  • 2022-01-12 at 10:16 am
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    I was convinced this would pass, and it did. I am pleased that Mayor Burk sided with the Planning Commission and voted against Virginia Village redevelopment and disappointed that Kari Nacy, who I supported, voted for it. Burk has made several thoughtful decisions regarding Leesburg “over” development including in my Country Club area.

    The Virginia Village project has too many townhouses with inadequate parking in the small space allocated. How many students will this add to the LCPS district? Traffic is already busy at the corner of Catoctin and King Street and this development will make travelling through that intersection dangerous.

    Leesburg had such a special feel when we moved to Virginia, which is why we chose to live here; it is now simply becoming another Reston. Very sad.

  • 2022-01-12 at 12:09 pm
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    This part of town really needs a makeover. I almost never venture into that plaza. But I suggest the town will be lucky to see the retail space built out as expected in this plan. Very few proposed retail spaces are getting built and occupied these days. The various projects at Avonlea are a great example of multiple failures to build out a space.

    And I think the set-aside of 5% of ADUs indicates the local boards are not serious about affordable dwellings in the town and county. Thirty-three units wouldn’t absorb the residents of the trailer park down the street.

    If I were on the prevailing side of this I’d move to reconsider and then postpone until there was greater agreement on the project.

  • 2022-01-12 at 12:17 pm
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    Looks like something out of some Supreme Soviet Glorious 5 year workers housing plan.

    Where’s the liquor store moving to? That’s really whats important here.

    • 2022-01-13 at 10:13 am
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      I’m glad someone has their priorities in order!

  • 2022-01-12 at 12:59 pm
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    Sorry, but the scale of that project is absurd.
    Belongs in Reston.

  • 2022-01-12 at 6:23 pm
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    I saw last night that the developer agreed to increase the affordable dwelling units. Is that true? I think this is a great improvement in the town and it keeps the density towards the downtown instead of on the outskirts. That is what causes traffic. Downtown Leesburg has a critical mass of supermarkets, drug stores, 2 post offices, 2 gun stores, restaurants, book stores, office supply stores, gift shops, bars, music venues, that are all within walking distance of Virginia Village. YES, that means less traffic outside of 8:30-9:30 and 5:30-6:30 rush hours. Less traffic 22 hours of the day because everything is within walking distance. That is what I call “smart growth”.

  • 2022-01-12 at 6:23 pm
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    How many students will be generated by the incremental residential units? Where is that figure (cost of education for eternity) in the numbers or even the article? Same old story – towns get tax increases and some local commerce but the county absorbs the cost of educating the high density application! (oops – II meant county taxpayers absorb the cost of education without having any real input into the decision! 🙂 Next time there is a local election perhaps ALL people eligible to vote should!

  • 2022-01-13 at 7:00 am
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    I saw last night that the developer agreed to increase the affordable dwelling units. Is that true? I think this is a great improvement in the town and it keeps the density towards the downtown instead of on the outskirts. That is what causes traffic. Downtown Leesburg has a critical mass of supermarkets, drug stores, 2 post offices, 2 gun stores, restaurants, book stores, office supply stores, gift shops, bars, music venues, that are all within walking distance of Virginia Village. YES, that means less traffic outside of 8:30-9:30 and 5:30-6:30 rush hours. Less traffic 22 hours of the day because everything is within walking distance. That is what they call “smart growth”.

    • 2022-01-13 at 10:17 am
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      2 post offices?! The one downtown is useless and the other one is sorely undersized. Purcellville has a better PO!
      With all this wonderful development why can’t we get a decent sized PO with decent parking!? More retail space that will stay empty or businesses that will collapse after a year because people want exorbitant hourly pay.

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