By: M. Callahan, ENDEAVOR July 2012
First and foremost, congratulations to Bailey’s for securing an inspiring revitalization project.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved funding for the planning and design phase of a new office-retail-residential complex planned for Moncure Avenue off Columbia Pike in the Bailey’s region of Mason District. Currently the site houses a homeless shelter which would be relocated or eventually become part of the new county complex. A temporary firehouse will also be installed on the lot while the damaged Bailey’s Crossroads firehouse is torn down to make way for a larger facility needed to accommodate the growing requirements. The present firehouse was significantly damaged during the 2010 blizzard. (see ENDEAVOR, January 2011 issue at www.annandalechamber.com)
The project calls for 175,000 square feet of county office space projected to be completed and occupied in three years. Employees temporarily housed in the Heritage office building in Annandale would move into these new county offices. (Annandale sometimes feels like a revolving door.)
Four hundred residential units will also be developed by the Weissberg Corporation along with retail space. The revitalization plan for Bailey’s is similar to many throughout the county and calls for a town center, streetscape improvements along Leesburg Pike, new road connections, realignment of Seminary Road and establishment of green space. (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/comprehensiveplan/area1/baileys.pdf)
It is also hoped that Fairfax County will eventually extend the Arlington Streetcar project into the Bailey’s area and on into Annandale via Columbia Pike. If done, both areas become less dependent on automobiles and their associated congestion. Much needed mixed-use and commercial development could also be anticipated along the route.
Unfortunately, Annandale has not seen any significant revitalization projects. More than twenty years have passed since a small amount of streetscaping and landscaping was done in the central business district. Toll House Park was established and dedicated in 1992 and in 1998 the county established five Revitalization Districts (Annandale, Baileys, Seven Corners, Springfield, McLean, and Richmond Highway) and two Commercial Revitalization Areas (Lake Anne and Merrifield). The county’s stated purpose of this designation was to,
“encourage economic development activities in the older commercial areas of the county by providing for specific regulations and administrative procedures to promote the continued viability and redevelopment of these districts/areas.”
In other words, all but one are located in prime sections of the much earlier developed eastern region of the county. They have all fallen on hard times after the development of the mega shopping malls, western county commercial areas, and the redirection of commerce to Tyson’s Corner. However, these designated areas remain the central commercial core of the eastern portion of the county (location-location-location).
It could be easily argued that every revitalization district and area have made substantial advancements except Annandale. Just look at Merrifield. Each has unique challenges, no more, no less than Annandale. A challenge, often offered for the lack of redevelopment in our home town, is that Annandale’s business district is made up of numerous very small pieces of property. To coordinate the purchase and development of any 5 acre parcel has been considered too difficult or Annandale’s third rail. The truth is, this is not a unique challenge. It is a common challenge overcome by districts all over the country. Because Annandale’s crime rate is exceptionally low, home ownership and occupancy high, income and education well above average, Annandale is often seen as doing just fine. Will Annandale continue to do just fine if hard core revitalization does not take place? Probably not.
Annandale’s Central Business District Planning Commission is comprised of many dedicated citizens. They have developed building guidelines; review in fine detail the building plans for any commercial project within the CBD providing they are not building by-right; and, take a masterful role in caretaking the maintenance of existing projects to include keeping the clock working in Toll House Park, trees trimmed and replaced, flowers added to the Village Center sign beds, brick walks maintained and initiating area wide clean-ups twice a year. More than 100 years of joint volunteer effort has been given by this committee and they should be saluted for their effort and for their endurance. Their job is not to solicit developers but to review commercial building projects that are seeking county permitting. Two frequently asked questions are,
1. “How does Annandale combat further neighborhood and commercial deterioration without revitalization projects?”
2. “Whose responsibility is it to interest developers in Annandale?”
Since 1998 few commercial structures have been built in Annandale and all built on lots that could have housed much larger projects. The newly built and beautiful TD Bank is probably the only project that advances the streetscape concept envisioned for Annandale. The question remains, what will it take to start Annandale’s revitalization ball rolling? The most common answer given is, “active engagement of developers through strong leadership.”
Rumblings throughout the community became loud and angry roars when it was announced that the much loved and utilized Fuddruckers would be torn down and replaced by yet another drug store; this time Walgreens. The rumblings persist. The people of Annandale wonder if they are forever to be Cinderella left home from the ball.
For this and other articles on Revitalization see the Community Revitalization section on this website.
To see the full article on Bailey's Redevelopment see the July 2012 edition of the ENDEAVOR news magazine.
Also see the Annandale Demonstration Project on this website.
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