Twenty years. That’s how long it’s been since the first idea was broached to redevelop the parcels on Columbia Pike known as the Southeast Quadrant in Bailey’s Crossroads. The Weissberg Company owned the commercial property for decades, leasing it to local businesses for vehicle repair services and public utility storage. Immediately to the east of the Weissberg parcels was a separately owned 1960s-era office building; to the west was county-owned land which housed the original Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter. Separately, none of the parcels was large enough for any significant redevelopment but, taken together, the assemblage would total slightly more than seven acres.
The Bailey’s Plan considered redevelopment opportunities; community charrettes were conducted, and many iterations were explored. At the time of the charrettes, around 2005, it seemed that mixed-use residential, with a grocery store on the ground floor, might be possible. As area elementary schools experienced overcrowding, the idea of a new urban-style elementary school with a playing field atop a parking deck was studied. Or would Fairfax County get out of leased space and build an East County Human Services Center? A company even approached me about building a storage unit facility. You can imagine what I told them!
So many ideas; so little land. The site was a tight one, and needed a good many creative approaches. Redevelopment would require a future extension of Seminary Road. The Great Recession put a halt to redevelopment plans as investment capital dried up and the retail market began to change. Nonetheless, the various landowners continued to work on an assemblage of the parcels, and a land swap was accomplished. The old office building was purchased by Fairfax County and demolished for a future roadway and the former shelter site was “flipped” to the east. Now, there were two contiguous properties that could be developed – Weissberg had the western parcels; Fairfax County the eastern ones.
Years were spent working with one well-known developer of multi-family residential, only to have their investment committee, based in another state, finally demur. A great disappointment, but we never gave up. We hung in there. The little Bailey’s Interim Park was installed, with yellow swooping shade structures, outdoor furniture, and landscaping providing a respite for pedestrians and shoppers. The Wood Brothers company purchased the former Weissberg site and worked through the county processes to begin construction on a mid-rise apartment complex with a parking garage, urban green space, and updated sewer infrastructure. On Wednesday, March 29, 2023, Fairfax County Board Chairman Jeff McKay and I were joined by Wood Brothers representatives for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Alta Crossroads development. Site development has already begun, much of the work is hidden by extensive blue fencing around the site. However, if you visit the Interim Park, you can view multiple artworks by students from Bailey’s Upper Elementary School along the eastern perimeter of the site. Art teacher Susie Scollon worked with her students and the developer to provide public art that can be enjoyed by all.
People sometimes wonder why revitalization of our older areas takes so long. Alta Crossroads is a good example – small parcels, lots of ideas, changing markets, multiple constituencies, dearth of investment dollars, national economic downturns – all contribute to the revitalization challenge. It’s not easy, but if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and right. Alta Crossroads is scheduled for completion in December 2024.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.