A plan to redevelop the Virginia Village shopping center was narrowly approved Tuesday after the Leesburg Town Council voted 4-3 in its favor.
While the council and resident opinions proved divided, especially after the Leesburg Planning Commission voted unanimously against the project last November, the project’s potential to revitalize the Crescent Design District convinced a narrow majority on the dais.
Vice Mayor Fernando “Marty” Martinez, Councilwoman Kari Nacy, and Councilmen Zach Cummings and Ara Bagdasarian voted in support.
“Our town plan calls for six-story buildings. It calls for parking garages, Nacy said. “What we want and what our policies say need to match.”
“[Virginia Village] needs a breath of life. It needs a place where people can gather and make new memories,” Nacy said.
The project, proposed by Brian Cullen’s Keane Enterprises, would transform the current Virginia Village from a 1960s shopping center with a sprawling parking lot into a walkable, mixed-use development of 643 residences, green space and about 165,000 square feet of commercial and office space.
The council postponed a vote on the development at its Dec. 13 meeting due to multiple concerns, including worries of an insufficient amount of residential parking, the order in which certain phases would be completed and the density of the buildings.
Those concerns persisted into the new year. During the petitioners’ portion of the meeting, 11 residents spoke about Virginia Village, with the majority voicing opposition to the project.
Leesburg Planning Commission Chair Gigi Robinson spoke as a resident to object to the redevelopment’s small economic return, parking issues and phasing.
“This development is very developer-friendly,” she said. “It is a concept plan that takes 30 zoning exceptions and still doesn’t fit.”
Resident Sharon Williams added that the proposed multi-story buildings and density would transform Leesburg from a small community into a suburban metropolis.
“Traffic is bad enough now without adding that many more cars,” Willams said. “Frankly, I can see people moving out of Leesburg to avoid the congestion.”
Others said that since the developer hasn’t named a price point for apartments, they could easily out-price the local service workers and young professionals who could most use the walkable access to downtown Leesburg.
Keane Enterprises added six last-minute proffer changes that partially addressed a few of the concerns, said Brian Boucher, deputy director of Planning and Zoning.
While Keane Enterprises had initially proposed 1 parking space per unit for efficiency and one-bedroom apartments, they added 95 parking garage spaces to create 1.25 parking spaces per one-bedroom unit.
Additionally, the developer offered to add a minimum of 20 electric vehicle charging spaces and smart signage to show parking garage capacity. To address housing affordability concerns, the developer added two affordable dwelling units for a total of 35, with a guarantee that all 35 would be built, Boucher said.
For Mayor Kelly Burk, however, the changes were not enough. Besides the issue of parking, her greatest concern was the low amount of commercial space and how late into the project it would be built.
“We are losing the ability to have people live here and work here because we don’t have the spaces for them to work,” Burk said.
Councilwoman Suzanne Fox agreed with Burk about what they said was an insufficient amount of commercial space, while Councilman Neil Steinberg added that if rent in the area goes up, Leesburg could lose its lucrative HUBZone.
“Change is scary, and there’s uncertainties ahead,” said Bagdasarian, who voted for the redevelopment. “This project does check all the boxes. We have an opportunity to build the future.”
While Keane Enterprises has not yet announced an exact timeline, the redevelopment of Virginia Village will take up to 10 years, a developer representative said at a previous meeting. The developer has promised that throughout the development, the popular Leesburg Farmer’s Market will be able to continue using the property uninterrupted, according to Loudoun Valley Homegrowers’ Market Collective board member Amber Becker.