Editor's Note: This is the second of a three-part series examining transportation, development and business along the Route 1 corridor. Part one, focusing on transit, ran Tuesday. Part three, focusing on hotels, will run Thursday.
The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan sets lofty goals for commercial development along the Route 1 corridor.
The plan characterizes the corridor as disjointed, with viable retail space mingling with obsolete or blighted commercial properties resulting from decades of unplanned development. It discourages small commercial and isolated parcels, as well as car washes, pawn shops and drive-throughs. It promotes improving the corridor’s image through streetscaping, tree cover, modern urban design principles, and the consolidation of existing commercial properties into larger, mixed-use developments.
Elizabeth Hagg, deputy director of the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization and Reinvestment, said the county is focusing on six key commercial centers along Route 1.
Most new development, except for hotels, will likely be concentrated between Huntington and Hybla Valley due to closer Metro access.
“We envision those becoming more mixed-use,” Hagg said. “So, some of the older commercial development will be upgraded, enhanced, and some new development will come in, and some of the new development will be mixed-use.”
The Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., or SFDC, which seeks to market the Route 1 corridor and facilitate development, does not take part in land-use disputes. Still, Executive Director David Versel said, “We want to see more unified and higher-quality development. We want to see development that has greater effort put on visuals, the environment, walkability of streets and other parcels.”
Unified Efforts at Penn Daw
A prime example is the county’s Penn Daw Task Force, part of a county-level special study to redevelop Penn Daw Plaza. The shopping center has been without an anchor store since Walmart opened across the street at Kings Crossing and is unlikely to see a new tenant anytime soon.
“That represents the first time we’ve seen multiple property owners and the county working together to create a unified vision,” Versel said.
The Penn Daw Task Force, which consists of representatives from the community and the SFDC, began meeting in December 2010 and is considering multiple options for mixed-use development with a primarily residential component. The task force’s recommendations are expected in early 2012 and will then be submitted to the Lee District Land Use Committee, which will vote on approval, according to Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay.
Many local residents were disappointed by the construction of Walmart, preferring higher-quality, mixed-use development instead, McKay said. “We have an opportunity, in my mind, to make up for the Walmart going across the street,” he said.
The site is close to the Metro, he said, and could have broad consequences for the entire corridor. “It will be a dramatic, positive image improvement in that area if it is actually built,” he said. “…This will be cutting-edge for Route 1 in terms of quality.”
The Penn Daw Special Study stands out from other studies due to intense county involvement, including market and transportation studies, and a shorter time frame, McKay said.
“What I’ve heard from people, over and over again, is let’s stop studying things. Let’s get going and actually get things built,” he said.
Expanding Retail and Housing Options
Plans are currently under way to expand retail options at Kings Crossing shopping center, anchored by Walmart, which opened in 2010. Phase II will include 20,000 square feet for restaurants and other retail grouped into four single-story buildings, two of which will face Route 1, said Michael Skena, acquisitions and development associate for the site’s developer, Chevy Chase, Md.-based JBG Rosenfeld Retail.
The developer is waiting on site plan approval from county officials and expects to receive it in early 2012 and begin construction then, Skena said. Some leases for new retail space have already been signed, although Skena would not disclose tenant names. Some, however, are for “fast casual” restaurants and the company is also courting a medical office.
“There is significant interest,” Skena said. “The Walmart drives a lot of shoppers to that shopping center.”
JBG Rosenfeld will also add additional turn lanes from the shopping center onto Route 1 and is working with the county to improve the access road in front of the development, which will eventually be replaced with a multi-use path. Also coming down the pipeline are pedestrian improvements to the intersection leading into the shopping center, Skena said.
“It will be a positive addition to the shopping center, and we think the shops moving in will be a positive addition to the Route 1 corridor,” he said.
Phase III of the Kings Crossing project is slated for mixed-use development.
The Beacon of Groveton, located just south of the Beacon Center, is currently under construction. The first phase includes 290 high-end apartments plus 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Phase II involves additional commercial development. Ultimately, the Beacon of Groveton will encompass 360,000 square feet of mixed-use development.
Further south, the shuttered Mount Vernon Multiplex Cinema will be demolished to make room for a Costco Wholesale, which hopes to close on the property in early 2012. The Costco warehouse will cover more than 143,000 square feet on a 12-acre site and is also expected to add to traffic congestion, with an estimated 4,500 new daily trips on weekdays.
The county’s Comprehensive Plan also calls for future mixed-use redevelopment at the Beacon Center, the Mount Vernon Plaza shopping center and the Bestway Supermarket site, although no current projects are planned for those locations.
New businesses mean more than close-to-home shopping and dining opportunities for residents along the corridor. It also means increased property tax revenue for the county.
“More commercial investment equals higher commercial property values equals less burden on the taxpayers,” said Versel with the SFDC.