Planning commission approves Riverside Apartments project, BOS vote is today

Riverside Apartments sign

A view of the Riverside Apartments from the corner of Huntington Avenue and Old Richmond Highway.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on a massive project that will add five new residential buildings to the Riverside Apartments complex in Huntington. The project was approved last week by the county Planning Commission.

Riverside, located at 5860 Cameron Run Terrace (off of Huntington Avenue and Old Richmond Highway) currently consists of three 15-story apartment buildings that contain a total of 1,222 units. Washington REIT, the property’s owner, is proposing to add five new buildings on the property, totaling 767 units. The three high rises would remain, and the entire property would see major changes including the addition of new public park along Cameron Run and improved amenities for residents of the complex.

While there was some debate among the planning commissioners at last week’s meeting over Washington REIT’s lack of a “fair share contribution” to the Fairfax County Park Authority — generally required of residential rezoning applications to help offset the increased demand on the county’s park resources — the commissioners agreed that the addition of the new Cameron Run Park and other improvements to the existing property made up for the developer’s lack of a contribution. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the project.

“The community has debated this. The neighborhood has been longing for these improvements along Cameron Run for 20 years,” said Mount Vernon Planning Commissioner Earl Flanagan said, noting the Huntington Community Association, Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation and Mount Vernon Council of Citizens Associations had all stated their approval of the project. “And now at last this application is going to provide what they’ve been waiting for for 20 years.”

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No members of the public spoke against or in favor of the project at the hearing.

Scott Adams, speaking on behalf of the law firm representing Washington REIT, noted that the current apartment complex was constructed in an era that favored sprawling parking lots and “inward facing” development styles. Riverside, he noted, is currently a fenced-in complex that does not integrate well with the surrounding community either through road connections, trails or sidewalk connections.

The project is also designed to have implement the “grid of streets” concept that is a key part of the Embark Richmond Highway initiative. Entrances to the complex will be re-aligned with the surrounding roads in a manner that will connect with a future development envisioned for the North Gateway area of Richmond Highway and the future extension of Fort Hunt Road, Adams said.

Riverside and its huge parking lot were also built without modern stormwater management standards, something this project will greatly improve, Adams said.

We think  this [project] has the potential to be really transformative for the Huntington community,” Adams said.

New parks

As part of the project, a total of 5.3 acres of public park land will be added to the Riverside site. The main piece will be the 3.74-acre Cameron Run Waterfront Park, which will be constructed along the water in a space that is currently part of Riverside’s parking lot. The park land will still be owned and maintained by Riverside, but will otherwise function as a pubic park. It will be accessible from Huntington Avenue via a new “pocket park” that will be built and a “linear park” that will connect the pocket park to the waterfront park. 

The waterfront park will feature a kayak launch and kayak rack, as well as fitness stations, a playground and a volleyball court. The waterfront park will also feature an eight-foot wide trail that will connect with a trail being constructed along Cameron Run as part of the Huntington Levee project.

The new 8,500 square-foot pocket park will be built along Huntington Avenue as part of an overall improvement of Riverside’s border with that road. A covered bus stop will be part of the pocket park, and it will include trails, lawn, benches and two sculptures. 

The 59,000-square-foot linear park will run along the western border of the Riverside property. It will be approximately 1,375 feet long and 40-50 feet wide, and have three “nodes,” each containing a pergola, bench and a lawn area.

Buildings and parking

Three of the new buildings will be 60 feet tall, while two will be 85 feet tall (the three existing towers are 158 feet tall). The two larger buildings will wrap around parking garages, while underground lots will be located under two of the smaller buildings. Some surface parking will remain in the northern and western parts of the property.

Construction of the Riverside project is projected to happen in four phases. Two of the smaller buildings, as well as improvements to the Huntington Avenue streetscape and an underground garage will be built in phase one; a third building and the pocket park will be built in phase two, as well the completion of the new Huntington Avenue entrance; phase three will include construction of the fourth building, the linear park and the waterfront park, and phase four will include the construction of the largest building near the center of the property.

Two of the new buildings will include a rooftop area featuring a pool, pergola, grill area, fire pit, seating and a club room. Three ground-level pool areas will be also be built and located within private landscaped courtyards.

School impact

Riverside sits within the Edison pyramid, and students from the apartments attend Cameron Elementary, Mark Twain Middle School and Edison High School. A Fairfax County Public School analysis estimates that the new residential units at Riverside will mean 87 new students over time — 24 high school, 15 middle school and 48 elementary.