Try to imagine heading to Bailey’s Crossroads and strolling along tree-shaded streets, looking at the shops, and having a meal at a sidewalk café. That’s the vision for turning an area of busy highways, apartments, strip malls, big box stores, and vast parking lots into an urban town center.
Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross; Deana Rhodeside, of Rhodeside & Harwell, an urban planning firm with offices in Alexandria and Newark, N.J.; and members of the Fairfax County planning department presented a new concept for Biley Crossroads to local residents Thursday evening at the Goodwin House.
The plan area encompasses the southeastern quadrant of Bailey’s Crossroads, stretching along the eastern edge of Columbia Pike, including the area between Leesburg Pike and Jefferson Street, and a smaller area south of Leesburg Pike toward Lacy Boulevard.
The new “town center,” located on Leesburg Pike across from Skyline Center, would have a new network of streets, multi-use developments with small stores at street level and offices or housing on the upper levels, wide sidewalks, and parks. That area currently contains large surface parking lots and older shopping centers. The plan calls for the site currently occupied by Giant to house a new art center. Rhodeside says the plan “creates a destination place at Bailey’s Crossroads – a place to spend time, a place to live, a place to work.”
A key element of a revitalized Bailey’s Crossroads is a proposed streetcar line connecting the area with the Pentagon City. The streetcars would be electric with overhead wires. A proposed transit center in the plan area would allow people to transfer from streetcars to buses.
Leesburg Pike would be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly “green street” with tree-shaded wide sidewalks and small shops facing the street. A median with trees and plants in the middle of Leesburg Pike would create a safe haven for people crossing from one side to the other. Parking would be underground or in above-ground structures (and would not be free).
The plan envisions new buildings in the town center area be no taller than nine stories—which is considerably less than the new 15-story Goodwin House residential building for seniors on South Jefferson and the 26-story buildings in the Skyline Center.
The plan also calls for a village center in the area between Columbia Pike and a slightly realigned Seminary Road. Buildings here would be no more than three stories and would serve as a transition between the new town center and existing residential areas. That area would also include a park with a soccer field.
Under the Bailey’s Crossroads plan, there would be about four or five times the amount of housing as there is now in the area. There are 861 housing units in the plan area, while the proposal calls for 4,187 – mostly multifamily and townhouses. And because the planners expect most of the new people in the area would be singles or couples, there aren’t any proposals for new schools.
Gross says the goal is to steer population growth to areas that are already urban and protect single-family neighborhoods. By 2025, the population of Fairfax County is expected to increase by 140,000.
Community residents at the meeting seemed pleased with the plan although some people raised concerns about the impact of denser development on traffic congestion. Several people expressed the need for more sidewalks and others said they need better bus connections to the Falls Church metro stations.
It’s a long-range plan and could take many years—even decades—to be fully implemented. What happens next depends to a large extent on the private sector. The land in the area under discussion is privately owned and would be privately developed. Various types of public private partnerships could be created to promote development. Incentives could be offered to developers, and developers would be required to pay for at least a portion of the sidewalk and street improvements.