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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Redevelopment plan proposed for Bailey's Crossroads

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.

Public hearings will be scheduled on the proposed plan later this year, then it will be used as the basis for recommended changes to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan. Both the county Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will have to approve any amendments to the county plan.

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.


  1. Sounds okay, but the County and the school officials should re-think the impact on schools. Also, I want to see the streetcar come down Columbia Pike into Annandale Village Center.

  2. Bruce Powers, Lake Barcroft resident4/19/10, 9:56 AM

    Good plan, but hard to achieve.
    'Car culture' made Baileys what it is now, and most users of Baileys have little incentive to make it otherwise. (Why would people who don't live near Baileys -- as I do -- want to give up all that free parking to accomplish their limited Baileys objectives?)

  3. Let me first say that this areas apparent pre-occupation with streetcars has me perplexed - I must have missed where this fad of yesteryear came back in style.

    Secondly, I am also concerned about the seeming want to build urban and town centers that straddle the majority of the areas major commuter roads (all the Pikes). These ideas seem to me to fall under ISLAGIATT - it seemed like a good idea at the time. But the combo of dramatically increasing the local population, adding streetcars and making Rt 7 "a pedestrian-friendly “green street” with tree-shaded wide sidewalks and small shops facing the street" with "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" is the best idea to create traffic congestion and gridlock that I could come up with. Most people travel through Baileys, not to Baileys. So there will be an urban center encompassing Little River and Columbia in Annandale, a town center encompassing Leesburg and Columbia, a couple sets of streetcar lines in Mark Center and Baileys and thousands of new families and jobs added to the area with little to no capacity added to the roads. What could go wrong with that?

  4. I agree that schools are a concern that should be brought to the fore immediately if it has not already been addressed. This area has a large number of seniors that do not have schools on their radar. In fact, this plan may be the very impetus Alexandria needs to bring the local public schools up a notch. Come to the meetings and bring up this point. I, for one, will second it.

    Linking Annandale to the Pentagon would be interesting but this trolley seems to have large DoD complexes at both ends. Why create the delays planning and spin-up require for re-routing? Get involved with the Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition and push for additional routes to Annandale and Mark Center.

    I would think Mark Center would be where the first logical route extension would to go since the lack of mass transit has already caused the locals to start grumbling. More than 3-years after Mark Center's investment started, 10s of millions invested, and our representative, Congressman Moran, recommends limited use of the facility because it lacks transportation infrastructure. Where were these voices 5 years ago? The proposed Bailey's transit center could become a hub for lines to Mark Center and Annandale in the future but we should press with the good plan we have while we have the public will.

    Regarding the car culture and traffic congestion in Bailey’s: I have lived here for more than 5 years and Bailey’s Route 7 is not a problem. I agree Columbia Pike to Annandale is an issue during rush hour or Seven Corners. (What a mess) But planning and signal timing on Route 7 will keep traffic flowing through Bailey’s.

    Streetcars or "L"s (elevated trains e.g. monorail) are not just the past but also the future. America's industrial based economy enjoyed the benefits of the automobile but we need to develop viable alternatives. This plan implements sound and feasible public transportation solutions. There is a large population buying homes where mass transit exists, property values increase in those areas as does the tax base your schools require. Car culture is the real yesteryear technology.

    Don't suffer the repeat of history in North Virginia. We had a chance for extended metro underground development but we kept our cars. I believe Bailey's will only benefit from this plan and languish without action. Doing nothing will serve no one: come out to the meetings and support the vitalization of Bailey's Crossroads.