|The Seven Corners Shopping Center used to be an enclosed mall.|
The answer appears to be mixed, judging from the task force’s Aug. 6 meeting, where property owners were invited to give their perspective on a preliminary outline for potential redevelopment put together during a lengthy design charrette June 27.
Vincent Burke, a representative of Saul Centers, which owns the Seven Corners Shopping Center, had a positive reaction to a proposal to create a town-center development on that site similar to the Mosaic District in Merrifield. Task force members are considering a new street grid there and taller buildings with retail on the ground floor and housing on the upper stories.
|The Willston I Shopping Center.|
A major redevelopment project that had been proposed for that site several years ago was withdrawn in January 2010 in the face of widespread public opposition.
Jim Edmonston, a principal with the E&G Group, which owns the 283-unit Seven Corners Apartments on Willston Drive, expressed some reservations about the economic feasibility of putting higher-density, market-rate apartments on that site.
The average cost of building new apartments with a range of sizes would be $251,000 per unit, he said, assuming they would be in a four-story, wood-frame building with one parking space per four units. “I could never imagine a case where underground parking could be justified,” he said, noting the cost of underground parking would be about $40,000 to $60,000 per space.
When it comes to the potential for redevelopment, “Seven Corners is not a bad area but it can’t compete with Tysons and Merrifield,” Edmonston said. He did note, however, that the Seven Corners Apartments haven’t had a major renovation in many years.
A representative of the Regency Centers, which owns the Willston I and Willston II shopping centers on Route 50, wasn’t at the Aug. 6 meeting. During the charrette session, David Corini, Regency’s vice president of investments, had a positive reaction to the proposal to develop a mixed-use town center on that property.
For some of the task force members, the perspective of the property owners offered a reality check, underscoring the difficulty of getting the private sector to invest in Seven Corners. But task force co-chair John Thillman is optimistic.
“This is a great plan. We just need to push it through,” Thillman said, noting that all of the landowners except McIlvaine seem to be on the same page in terms of the results of the charrette.
Thillman anticipates the task force having a final proposal for redevelopment completed in time for a Board of Supervisors decision in October 2014. That means the final planning language needs to be completed by next May or June.
In September, the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization staff will present a report on the charrette, filling in some of the details. After that, the task force will start focusing on transportation—because redevelopment won’t be possible unless something is done to improve transit and reduce traffic congestion.