Many local residents are aware that a general aviation airport operated on property that now is Skyline in eastern Mason District. The Washington-Virginia Airport at Bailey’s Crossroads opened in the mid-1940s, with a 2800-foot dirt runway that was paved by 1957; a second runway later was built, and the airport continued to serve general aviation until it closed in October of 1970. Aerial photos from 1964 show the airport along the south side of Route 7, with a large drive-in theatre and shopping centers adjacent to some still-existing garden apartments. If you look carefully, you still can see the small red beacon lights (not operational) on buildings that signaled the flight path for incoming planes.
Far less known was another small airport a few miles west, known as the Falls Church Airpark, which operated from 1945 to 1961 along the south side of Route 50, between Graham Road and Fenwick Street. The airpark operated on property owned by the Eakin Family, with a dirt runway and room for a couple dozen planes. Old aerial photos show the runway parallel to Route 50, with houses along Marc Drive and on the eastern side of Graham Road. A later cross runway was added, but not paved. The airpark hosted pilot training and air shows that were open to the public.
When the airpark closed, the Eakin family applied for permits to build a shopping center, but their application was denied. Nearby residents objected to the increased traffic that would be generated. Later applications to build apartments (Monticello and Coralain Gardens) were approved and, eventually, the Loehmann’s Plaza shopping center (now Graham Park Plaza) was built to serve the growing population.
Still owned by the Eakin family, the property has a prospective third iteration – as the Townhomes at Graham Park Plaza. Following a lengthy public community process to rezone the western half of the old shopping center for residential use, a ceremonial groundbreaking was held last week for what will be a 172-unit community, with 22 affordable dwelling units, required by Fairfax County’s zoning policy. An earlier design was for apartment homes, but additional work with the community, by developer EYA and Federal Realty, resulted in fewer units, all for sale rather than rental. The new neighborhood will include an urban linear park open to the public, a grid of streets, and pedestrian and bicycle amenities. The western half of the shopping center has been demolished; popular spots like the Celebrity Deli, the Giant grocery store, and the rest of the eastern half will remain.
Elements of the new community commemorate the old airpark’s existence. Proposed street names include Old Airfield Way, Blade Drive, Ascent Drive, and Camber Street (camber is an aeronautics term relating to symmetry of an airfoil). Model home names include private plane names like Cessna and Bellair. Although there may not be little red beacons, I suspect that new residents will find other small amenities with aeronautic themes. Forty homes already have been sold; more units will be available for sale as construction proceeds. Occupancy for the first group of townhomes is anticipated to be late 2022.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]