South Alex, a mixed-use development years in the making, finally had its official groundbreaking on Thursday morning.
Representatives from developer Combined Properties, politicians and residents were on hand for the ceremony, which marks the beginning of construction of 400-apartment complex featuring 44,000 feet of ground-level retail. An Aldi grocery store will anchor the development, which is located at the intersection of Kings Highway and Richmond Highway.
A representative from Combined said Friday that construction is expected last close to three years.
“Two years from now we will begin leasing apartments and turn over the grocery space with a full project delivery the summer of 2021,” said Justin Johnson, director of acquisitions and development for Combined.
Johnson said financing for the project, which utilizes “a market rate HUD insured loan program that provides both construction and permanent fixed-rate financing for 40-years after the project is built” was finalized earlier this week.
Long time coming
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors signed off on the South Alex project in January 2014. Since the redevelopment of the old Penn Daw Shopping Center has moved slowly.
The shopping center was vacated in 2015 and then demolished in 2016. Construction on a 41-townhome development called The Towns at South Alex began construction at the rear of the property in 2017. But progress on the apartments and retail remained stalled due to uncertainties about an anchor grocery store.
The Fresh Market has originally been expected to be the anchor tenant, but the chain pulled out in the summer of 2016. After The Fresh Market deal fell through, all work at the site — including demolition — stopped for a time. The remainder of the old shopping center was torn down in the fall of 2016, but a new grocer was not announced until January 2018. During that span of time much of the South Alex property has been little more than a pile of dirt.
But in October Johnson announced that a financing deal was finally coming together, meaning that work on the retail and apartments could finally move forward.