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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Seven Corners residents explore vision for future redevelopment

The Seven Corners Shopping Center
Seven Corners residents and business owners at the second “visioning workshop” last night were thoroughly engaged in the process to form a long-term plan for redeveloping the area, yet there was quite a bit of frustration over the need for immediate action to clean up the appearance of the area.

As one resident noted: “Developers aren’t going to be interested in reinvesting when the area is covered with litter.”

At the June 18 session, the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR) revealed the following vision statement for the area:

“Seven Corners will be a thriving, safe, clean, and dynamic urban mixed-use center that provides essential lifestyle services, amenities, and connectivity and embraces its diverse community and central location as a transportation hub and historic gateway to Fairfax County.”

The statement is based on comments by residents and business owners at the first “visioning workshop” May 21, as they discussed what they feel are the strengths and challenges of the area and how they think Seven Corners should be improved.

At last night’s session, OCR Deputy Director Liz Hagg said the draft statement is meant to be viewed as a framework to “get the ball rolling” on continued discussions about how Seven Corners should be developed. It will ultimately lead to changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Several people at the meeting took issue with  some of the language in the draft vision statement. One member of the audience didn’t think the word “urban” should be in there and said Seven Corners should be more like a “village.” But another person said it’s not really a suburb any more. “‘Urban’ doesn’t have to be a nasty word,” she said. “It’s delusional to think we can go back to being a village.”

The OCR staff also came up with 10 “Seven Corners guiding principles,” based on what people said at the earlier session:
  1. Continue to be an inclusive community that celebrates its diversity and builds upon its assets by increasing opportunities for engagement and interaction.
  2. Provide housing that responds to all needs, abilities, ages, and income levels.
  3. Provide a mix of retail, housing, employment, and service opportunities by encouraging appropriate redevelopment, the update and upgrade of existing uses, and the preservation of local, home-grown establishments. Encourage the success of existing businesses while providing opportunities for start-ups and new retail and restaurant concepts.
  4. Establish or enhance an identifiable center which includes a mix of uses and public spaces and well-defined edges which appropriately transition into the surrounding, stable neighborhoods.
  5. Integrate a variety of park experiences into additional green spaces, parks and through assorted recreation facilities that are publicly accessible and attract users of all ages and abilities.
  6. Provide an urban network of “complete” streets designed to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists, transit vehicles, and automobiles and that are safe and attractive as well.
  7. Provide enhanced local and regional transit service within the Seven Corners area as well as to the Metrorail Orange Line stations and other important destinations.
  8. Surface parking should be limited, and where currently existing, enhanced. parking should be provided in underground structures as much as possible. Where underground parking isn’t feasible, above-ground parking structures will be provided and will be wrapped by active uses (offices, residential, retail) along pedestrian corridors so parking isn’t visible from street.
  9. Encourage high-quality design and sustainable development that limits adverse impacts on the environment and the community.
  10. Establish a process or procedures for addressing cross-jurisdictional or intra-governmental matters that also includes citizen participation and that considers the impacts on Seven Corners and surrounding neighborhoods.
As the audience discussed those guiding principles, several people called for quick fixes to improve the appearance of Seven Corners now, as major redevelopment is likely to be years away. 

One member of the audience suggested a phased approach with steps that can be taken immediately to remove litter and illegal signs. She urged the county to put up signs stating there are fines for littering, loitering, and illegal signs—and enforce them. The revenue collected from fines would pay for clean-up activities.

Another person expressed confusion over what the group is trying to accomplish, asking, “Are we trying to fix it up or bulldoze it and redevelop? How far are we going to go here?”

There were also several comments from people who thought the statements should put more of an emphasis on fixing the traffic congestion at the Seven Corners intersection.

The community needs better information from the county on what is going on in Seven Corners, another audience member said. For example, the public should have been notified about the new apartment tower and hotel approved for Route 50, plans for the properties where the medical buildings on Castle Road are for sale, and VDOT’s occasional minor road improvements.

Someone else proposed building on Seven Corners’ multicultural heritage and the uniqueness of the Route 7 corridor, noting that Peking Gourmet was featured on the Food Network. “That put Bailey’s Crossroads on the map. How can we build on that to increase exposure and attract investment?”

The next steps call for creation of a citizen task force on land use and transportation issues to further redefine the vision and principles, Hagg said. The group will meet once a month for a year and a half.   

Hagg also called for another citizen group to work on more immediate, quality of life issues, like litter and illegal signs. She invited people at the meeting to sign up for those groups. If you weren’t there, you can sign up online.

After the task force finishes its work, the process for incorporating those recommendations into the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan would begin. That would include more public meetings, hearings before the Planning Commission, a vote by the Planning Commission, hearings before the Board of Supervisors, and ultimately formal adoption by the board.


  1. I think the big picture here is that there is no central communication point - i.e. The "Supervisor" should be taking an active role in bettering HER district. I'd be embarrassed if I was in charge of this place.

  2. With the recently passed legislation by the General Assembly authorizing the Commissioner of Highways to enter into an agreement with Fx Cty to remove illegal signs from the VDOT right of way, wonder if our Supervisor and/or police dept. will work to have these illegal signs removed..or if fines will be given to the offenders? Would think the collection of fines would pay for the enforcement.

  3. To the commenter who said "the Supervisor should be taking an active role in her district" - given that the Farifax County Office of Revitalization (an entity under the Board of Supes) is working on this project, it would appear that she (and the county) is involved. Perhaps if you were specific as to what you mean by 'lack of central communication point', you comment would be insightful..

  4. Another really great article. I agree with the sentiments of residents in almost every way. I agree that the line between demolition and correction is fine. Smart growth shouldnt be about destroying what exists to restart, it should be about preserving areas that work, and enhancing them while continuing to grow in a sustainable way.

    Emphasizing local businesses and retail is a great start, I would also suggest that the county not allow the consolidation of any existing residential properties. We need all the residential options possible, and there are so many other areas that could be consolidated such as parking lots and light industrial uses/strip malls.

    Urban also doesnt have to mean high rise, there are some really great human scale retail/residential concepts out there too.

  5. Regarding- lack of leadership of Supervisor.... What I mean is that after years of citizens and neighborhoods asking for some action on things - basically nothing has been done. She never holds a "town hall meeting" and addresses issues. (One meeting is held for the budget - that is it.)It would be nice to see her take leadership of the issues, ie - Identify and Help solve them with the communities help. I dont know if she is taking an active role in this at all - or just showing up to something that the larger board set in motion for all districts/areas in need. Actions like the ones they are taking now by setting up the "quality of life" committee should have been set up by the Supervisor YEARS AGO (things neighborhoods have asked for repeatedly). The only thing I see is "visionining"- which is fine, however you may recall we did the "visioning" for Baileys and that is all that happened. visions. I really dont know what the office of "revitalization" does all day, but I hope something comes of this effort. Residents around here are really fed up and they turn to apathy to help fight the anger brought on by not being heard by the Supervisors office.

  6. Wonderful comments and a good summary of the meeting. Totally agree with the lack of help from the supervisor's office. The residents who tried to get a cleanup of 7 corners area received no real help from the supervisor's office or VDOT. I hope they don't become discouraged and then apathetic.

    Seven Corners is really a unique area with its own character. We don't want it to look like Clarendon or Tyson's Corner. We want it to be walkable with it's little shops but more upscale ones too. We can really start by cleaning it up and getting the businesses to help by improving their facades and making their businesses more attractive.

    People I have talked to really liked the Tyson's Engineer blog about putting in a traffic circle at the Seven Corners intersection. This construction would be a doable solution and wouldn’t break the budget. What is going to happen to traffic when they build 200-400 condos and a hotel on the north side of 50. Are the developers for these projects putting in money for infrastructure? If so they can contribute to a traffic circle at Seven Corners. Hope people read the Tysons Engineer’s blog at

    We need an open and transparent process as we go through working on plans for revitalization. We need to be able to share with one another what the Participation Groups are doing and not just work separately. It's clear residents will have to do this on their own and not expect help from government officials.