Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

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Revitalization of our older commercial areas is a key focus in Mason District, as it was the first area to develop post-war, and business and shopping areas that were shiny and new in the suburban model of the mid-20th century are aging in both design and infrastructure.

Travel and access patterns have changed, and the technology that helps advance business and commercial activities races along much faster than our older structures can accommodate it. With good planning and good community dialogue, we can chart a course for redevelopment of older areas, such as Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale, and make them attractive, efficient, and walkable destinations, instead of quick pass-throughs on the way to somewhere else.

On June 24, the Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve revitalization plans for both Bailey’s and Annandale. The plans were developed with a lot of input from local residents and businesses, and several well-attended community meetings were held as the plans evolved. The Annandale plan maintains the overall development potential already approved, but moves to a form-based approach that emphasizes the form and function of a future development while providing flexibility in land uses and intensities. Little River Turnpike could be widened to six lanes, using the current service drive rights-of-way for improvements and amenities. The Planning Commission concurred with the widening, but some residents and business owners have advocated for a “one-way pair” in the downtown area that would make Route 236 one-way traveling west, while eastbound traffic would use a loop road to the south before reconnecting with the main lanes. The Bailey’s Plan features more mixed-use development, bicycle and transit rider access, and increased open space. The densest development would be focused in the area near the future streetcar stop along South Jefferson Street. Also recommended is a tree-lined grid of streets and a new arts center.

On a larger scale, but a revitalization project nonetheless, the Tyson’s Plan Amendment was approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 22, after more than five years of study by a community task force. The adopted plan would transform Tyson’s Corner, during the next 20 years or so, from a car-dependent office center to a series of neighborhoods, with commercial and residential opportunities so that people can live close to where they work. Today, more than 100,000 people work in Tyson’s, but only 17,000 live there. The new Plan anticipates a significant increase in people and housing units in a transformative Tyson’s Corner with four new Metrorail stations. Green buildings, urban parks, a grid of streets, and new public facilities are part of the Plan, which was approved by a vote of 8 to 2.

Revitalization is not new to Mason District. The Annandale Central Business District Planning Committee has been in existence for more than 25 years, and the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation has been around nearly as long. Thanks to these involved and knowledgeable community advocates, we have made incremental and consistent progress to ensure that our Mason District “downtowns” remain vibrant and successful. The revitalization plans that will be considered on July 13 will follow up on their vision, and set the stage for our future.

 


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]