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Thursday, July 12, 2012

'Annandale Arbors' proposed for sprucing up streetscape


Little River Turnpike, not the best place for walk.
Have you ever walked around downtown Annandale? Strolling down Little River Turnpike isn’t all that pleasant. There are a ton of cars whizzing by and a lot of open parking lots in front of and between the buildingsand good luck trying to cross the street.

Jeffrey Levine, an architect/urban planner, has a good idea for making central Annandale a bit nicer and more inviting for pedestrians, which he calls “Annandale Arbors.” He proposes upgrading the streetscape by installing a series of about 40 small, white arbors, like those in the photo below. Most would be placed along the southern side of Little River Turnpike at regularly spaced intervals, with some radiating out along Columbia Pike, Annandale Road, and Backlick Road.

There have been some efforts to make Annandale more attractive, he acknowledges. The TD Bank building has good landscaping, the acorn street lamps are a nice touch, and Helen Winter, the beautification chair of the Annandale Commercial Business District Planning Committee (ACBDPC), has worked tirelessly over the years to get businesses to spruce up their facades. But a unifying design element would give central Annandale more of a sense of place. 

The 2010 Annandale amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan calls for Little River Turnpike to be transformed into a wider “boulevard,” but that is many years away, and the arbors can be done right now for little cost. It’s way to get a “huge big bang for few bucks,” Levine says. With volunteer labor, the whole thing would cost less than $100,000.

He suggests the whole community can come together for an “Annandale Arbor Day” to work on this project and perhaps combine the arbor-building project with the Annandale Fall Festival. Creating a more attractive streetscape and organizing a community event around this would say “Annandale cares,” he says.

This isn’t Levine’s first idea for improving Annandale. Last fall, he led the team that developed the Annandale Demonstration Project, an effort to visualize how a mixed-use project could fit in here.

When Levine presented his proposal for “Annandale Arbors” to the ACBDPC July 10, the property owners and revitalization advocates who comprise the committee didn’t exactly embrace the idea. 

Carol Zach, manager of the Annandale Shopping Center, said the arbors will block the view of local businesses and would become magnets for graffiti and trash. “Who will pay for maintenance?,” she said. “I can’t see anything positive about this.”

“We won’t be able to get volunteers to work on this,” Eileen Garnett added. “People don’t want to volunteer and give their time anymore.” She said it might be easier to do something like more landscaping and flowers in front of stores, and Zach suggested hanging banners or flower baskets from the acorn lights.  

Committee chair Dan McKinnon, expressed a more positive view, noting, “you won’t attract the kind of mixed use redevelopment we need unless you can make Annandale more attractive.”

26 comments:

  1. Whats the point of doing this, when there is still 100' of asphalt behind these little havens? I think this is a lipstick project that doesnt understand what creates a pedestrian friendly streetscape. We need to stop requiring minimum parking and start incorporating maximum parking and recommend new projects locate buildings closer to walkways and parking in the rear or structurally.

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  2. Waste of money, Ms. Zach is right. A long term landscaping plan that addresses cleanliness and sustainability is what's needed, not forty tacky arbors from Home Depot. They'll be peeling and covered in trash and fliers within a summer (the ones that aren't simply stolen). I appreciate the attempt and agree with the need for beautification in Annandale, but this is a terrible idea.

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  3. RE: many years away:

    does anyone know how many? has Penny discussed the place of it in the County's priorities? With the HOT lanes about to open, the time for transforming Annandale my be close to ripe.

    "blocking the view of local business" considering how ugly most of them are, I am not sure that is a disadvantage.

    @TE

    I think its explicit that this is a bandaid, since the rebuilding of LRT (for which there is a lovely plan) is apparently "years away"

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  4. The article asks, "Have you ever walked around downtown Annandale?" Yes, I walked from Hummer Road to the library one day. It was basically trying to cross a hundred driveways without getting squished.

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  5. It's difficult enough pulling out into traffic with many businesses' overgrown weeds and bushes in our way. Placing more obstructions in our line of sight would only serve to increase traffic accidents.

    However, I do support the idea of making Annandale look better.

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  6. I cannot believe the negativity of people in the article and from the comments, even from the Tysons Engineer. For heavens sake you have to start somewhere to help Annandale.

    At least this urban designer is trying to put out some type of landscape design. It doesn't have to be landscape designs that block views of cars (I wouldn't want to miss seeing a car drive by). Why can't residents and others come out to do some type of unified landscape design that makes the area look less bland and more attractive. If people show they care and do something themselves that will generate interest from other businesses, developers, and county government.

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    1. I am all for creative and affordable ideas. But Annandale needs a unified vision, I am worried the County will simply say, "job done that should hold the region over" instead of doubling down on the effort and matching those improvements with more substantial ones and embracing redevelopment of strip malls

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    2. Totally agree that we don't want the county to say job done but how many years has the annandale revitalization committee been in existence and nothing has happened except for acorn lights and some brick pedestrian crossings. It's clear the county is not going to do anything until the residents demand it. I think that's how the Merrifield revitalization took off. The residents just decided they had enough and started doing things themselves. It's really good when you and others throw out ideas and get people thinking. Of course you will have the naysayers, but at least you are trying and believe me that's appreciated.

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  7. This idea royally sucks. Who is going to maintain these ugly things, and who will pay to replace them when they get damaged/destroyed by cars, weather, or vandalism. Plant trees if you have to. More pie in the sky liberalism gone amok with no consideration given to the things I mention above. What the heck is wrong with people - who do they expect to pay for all this? I can't tell you how many METROBUS shelters which actually serve a purpose have been destroyed and never replaced due to the cost. Seriously, I understand why you posted this as it is "an effort" but if that deserves merit I propose an Annandale Museum be built...or maybe a theme park to attract visitors nd revenue! Ever see the movie by Michael Moore about the decline of Flint Michigan? He made great ridicule of just such stupid ideas - and he is a flamimg liberal! Arbors...seriously now.

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  8. If Little River Turnpike and Annadale are so appalling - move! I like it here and redevelopment will eventualy follow WHEN the economy improves AND we get rid of this Obamaination of a President. Has anyone noticed the redevelopment of Columibia Pike in Arlington? Coming soon to Columbia Pike near you and everywhere else inside the beltway when economic conditions improve.

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    1. So how did Arlington manage to redevelop Columbia Pike with President Obama in the White House? Nice attempt to interject your personal politics into an unrelated topic.

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    2. Arlington has a long, steady multi-administration history of smart growth and innovative land-use planning. Those Green Streets, energy-smart government buildings, and savvy marketing make Arlington now a hip, healthy place to live generating a broad tax base to support redevelopment of its stretch of Columbia Pike. Fairfax County didn't do that.

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  9. What is your big idea and solution?

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    1. Walkable Bikeable. Think about it.

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  10. The Columbia Pike plan in Arlington took YEARS to plan and implement and crossed many administrations. My point is TOTALLY related. Government is not the solution to redevelopment - private enterprise is - so unleash it and stop thinking the govt is the solution to all perceived problems. My "big idea" is to partner with developers to get what you want. Give them incentives to come in and improve things and invest. You can always move out of Annandale. Last time I checked things were pretty good around here and in no need of any major intervention - especially junk like arbors I'll end up financing through higher taxes.

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    1. columbia pike has had active involvement from the quite liberal Arlington County Board.

      as for the economy, the economy in greater Washington has been strong, and is unlikely to be much stronger when the national economy improves.

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  11. Remember the saying "It's the economy stupid?" Its the economy stupid. Obama has failed by sqandering his first term ramming unwated heathcare down our throats and dividing this country rather than working with the opposition like Reagan and Clinton did - both had Congress against them but were smart enough to compromise.

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    Replies
    1. You don't want sick people to have health care? Gosh, Why not?

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  12. First off, I agree that Annandale is a nice place to live, and it has a lot of promise to get better. And I think the arbors are not what's needed. That said, it's pretty clear that you are trying to serve some other purpose by complaining about the president as if he has something to do with this. May I suggest the comment boards at www.foxnews.com?

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  13. Step 1 to make the streets look better... clear out the day laborers

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  14. As long as this blog continues to gives to democrat politicians lots of biased publicity and totally IGNORES Republicans (we do have a REpublican Gov, Lt. Gov, and Attorney General you know), there is much more of a need for me to provide some "fair and balanced" commentary right here, thank you very much. Suggest you need a little more Fox news in your life though - might be good for ya.

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    Replies
    1. Plenty of news outlets cover McDonnell, Boling and Cuchinelli. I'm grateful for an Annandale blog that covers news of Annandale. And I expect that if any of those three do anything that actually involves Annandale, it'll be covered here.

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    2. Re: Fox "news": not gonna happen.

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    3. Yeah, thanks, but I'll take a pass on the invitation to watch Fox News. I tune every now and then just to see some of the silliness, but I can't stand it for more than a minute or two.

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  15. Dear Annandale Blog, Why can't you be more like Fox News? We would like more fair, balanced, insightful commentary from actresses with microphones. They must be smart. Look at their hair. Just sayin'

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  16. This blog serves as an informative communication channel to the Annandale residents, not as a blog to disseminate political propaganda or serve as a political venue or platform. Start your own blog with your Republican thoughts if you feel like this blog isn't furthering your views. Oh...and if you do, practice on your grammar.

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