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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Housing on Sears site is part of major Seven Corners redevelopment plan



A redevelopment proposal calls for apartments, townhouses, and retail to replace Sears and two office buildings on Leesburg Pike.
Dick Knapp, senior vice president of Foulger-Pratt Development, provided more details on a mixed-use apartment project proposed for the Sears site in Seven Corners at a meeting of the Ravenwood Park Citizens Association June 2. John Thillman, chair of the Seven Corners Task Force on Land Use and Transportation, described how that project fits in with the task force’s concept for redevelopment.  

The Sears project would consist of three six-story buildings facing Leesburg Pike with a total of 748 units. The units would be a mix of condos and apartments with zero, one, or two bedrooms. In addition, 54 townhouses would be built along Juniper Lane and at the rear of the property.

Sears has an option to renew its lease next year, and Knapp says sales are down so the company is not likely to stay in that location anyway. Foulger-Pratt owns the middle part of the site occupied by Sears and will take the lead in the redevelopment project. The J.L. McIlvaine Co. owns the office building properties flanking Sears.

A lot more housing

The development would include a new street accessible to Route 7 lined with “convenience retail,” such as restaurants, a coffee shop, and a dry cleaners. There would also be ground floor space in the highrises for medical offices.

The new apartments would have a lot of amenities, including granite counters, full-size washers and dryers, wood floors, and large windows, Knapp said. Each building would have a fitness center, swimming pool, mini-movie theater, and cyber lounge.

Knapp estimates about 15 percent of the residents would be empty nesters downsizing from single-family houses. The rest would be a mix of millennials (ages 20-33) moving to the county for jobs and professionals in the 33-40 age range. The county requires 15 percent of the units to be set aside for affordable “workforce housing” targeted to people working in jobs like teaching and firefighting.

According to Knapp, not many residents will have school-age children, so there won’t be much of an added burden on the schools, and because many of residents would be retired or would telecommute, they won’t generate a lot of rush-hour traffic.

Pat Hoar, a Ravenwood Park resident who serves on the Seven Corners Task Force, said the proposed development takes into account several requests of the neighborhood, including the provision of a buffer area between the new townhouses and existing single-family houses and tapered building heights, with the tallest structures closest to Route 7.

The project would be next door to the Upper Bailey’s Elementary School, which is slated to open in the fall in a former office building. Foulger-Pratt is proposing an access road from the rear of the school site through the new project to Route 7.

The site planning, design, rezoning, and permitting processes will take years, so Knapp estimates the first building is at least five years away. The second building would be completed in year eight, and the third in year 11.

New roads proposed 

The proposal for the Sears site is just one concept for redevelopment in the plan under discussion by the Seven Corners Task Force.

The group’s transportation proposals include a new ring road to direct traffic away from the existing intersection of Route 7, Route 50, and Wilson Boulevard; at least one additional overpass on Route 50 to provide easier access to the East Falls Church Metro station; a new street grid within the redeveloped areas; improved bicycle and pedestrian connectivity; and a new transit center for rapid transit buses.

The land use component calls for a lot more housing (from about 700 units currently to about 2,500) and a town center with a street grid on the north side of Route 50. The average household income in Seven Corners is $42,000, compared to a countywide average of $107,000. The task force proposes a significant amount of affordable housing—15 percent of the total—while attracting new middle-income residents.

The area needs a lot more market-rate, multifamily housing to make additional development economically feasible. There’s no incentive for property owners to redevelop unless they can increase the density, Thillman said.

Thillman is urging the county to consider the Willston area for the new East County Government Center, which has been proposed for a site off Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. Seven Corners needs an employment center to be economically viable, he said.

In addition to the Sears site, the owner of the Willston shopping centers and nearby apartments are most likely to be interested in redevelopment, Thillman said. Regency Centers, the owner of Willston I and II, is considering an apartment building with a Safeway on the ground floor.

A new urban-style elementary school is also “in the works” for the area at the insistence of Fairfax County Public Schools, although a site hasn’t been identified, he said. School overcrowding is a problem and is expected to get worse. “The school issue has to be addressed but it can’t be the tail that wags the dog,” Thillman said.

A long-term plan

None of this is happening any time soon; it’s a 40-year plan and it depends on the willingness of property owners to pursue redevelopment and the availability of funding for transportation improvements. The task force plans to spend the next couple of months refining the concept and drafting an amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, which would be submitted to the Planning Commission in the fall and to the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year.   

Five years ago when a smaller multifamily family development was proposed for the Sears site, local residents strongly opposed it. Knapp called that project “a trial balloon” put forth by the McIlvaine family.

At the June 2 meeting, several Ravenwood Park residents expressed general support for the concept, although there was concern about increased traffic on Juniper Lane and Patrick Henry Drive. Several people noted that the alternative to redevelopment is vacant buildings and worsening traffic congestion. 

35 comments:

  1. I will never understand the statements like, "not many residents will have school-age children, so there won’t be much of an added burden on the schools, and because many of residents would be retired or would telecommute, they won’t generate a lot of rush-hour traffic." How does he KNOW this? What kind of mystical powers does this person possess that he KNOWS that there will be no school aged children in these apartments (has he visited ANY area apartment complexes in the Mason District? I would suggest he contact the FCPS to find out how many school aged children are bussed to area schools from all these apartment complexes that only have 1-2 bedrooms. Even ACCA furniture moving volunteers can tell you that the majority of their deliveries are to apartments with several families crammed in.) Give me a break. If you're planning housing of any kind, unless it is SENIOR LIVING housing only, you must expect an increased burden on the schools and traffic and plan accordingly for them, period. To deny any impact and do nothing is outright irresponsible of our county supervisors.

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    1. new high end apts close to metro draw a significantly different demographic from 50 year old low rise apt complexes in Annandale. Anyone who can afford one of these new units can afford a house further out. The only places in Fairfax where buildings like this draw lots of families with kids are places like Mclean, where the schools are very desirable. Thats not Seven Corners.

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    2. It should be a requirement that space in these buildings should be leased to the county for $1.00 a year for a pre-K thru 3, elementary school!

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    3. A "40" year plan that doesn't address the educational needs of the community is irresponsible planning!

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    4. First, this addresses nothing which is most critical NOW, redoing the Seven Corners/Route 7 crossroads intersection. Who cares about adding new apartment buildings, let Falls Church handle that, like they are doing. Address the traffic situation, it sucks, has always sucked and gets worse every year. Second, I'd put the schools in Seven Corners/Bailey's Crossroads up against the schools in Mclean any day. Get you head out of your ass. Mclean is for rich people and that is why the schools are better? Wrong!

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    5. The rebuilding of the intersection is going to be justified by the new development. Which will generate tax revenues for FFX - apts in Falls Church will not do that. Ultimately though, trying to fix auto commutes in this region by building more road infra is hopeless. The way to address congestion is to provide better alternatives - the Rte 7 transitway, and better walking and biking. And I did not say schools in Mclean were better because they have rich people - its just my impression that a lot of people will pay a premium to live in Mclean for the schools, and not so much in seven corners. Whether that is rational or not, I do not know, but it is relevant to whether we can expect a lot of families with kids in new parts in Seven Corners.

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    6. Yep, that is exactly what your gonna get with this, apartment buildings with multi-families living in them further overcrowding the schools and the area placing further strain on taxpayers etc...

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  2. Is it just me, or did the number of townhouses (100) mentioned in this double from the 5/14 number (52).

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    1. John Thillman said 100, but the drawing showing the conceptual site plan shows 54. The story was revised.

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  3. So if the proposed East County Government Center is moved from Bailey's Crossroads, what do they propose for that land at Bailey's crossroads. That site, along with the large car service area behind it is the biggest eyesore and the worse use of land in the combined Bailey's/7-corner area. I suppose a mixed used development there also.

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    1. Enough housing! We need space for a new elementary school! with a play area!

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    2. If you cleared out 1/2 to 3/4 of the apartment buildings housing multi-families you wouldn't need a new school or have to take over an office building. .

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    3. I realize this is an older article, but they are talking about building a school on there now.

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  4. My vote is for an adaptive reuse of the Sears Building to a performing arts center. Something this county does not have, except for all the performances of the drug dealers and thirds world hoodlums.

    A performance arts center would help drive the restaurant and entertainment industry and attract new and interesting folks to our area; and I don't mean more white vans with ladders on the roofs. Damn where are the visionaries, where are the economists, where are the County folks that should be thinking up this stuff? I forgot, it is 5:40 pm, they are at home in Loudon County.

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    1. Sounds like a forward thinking wonderful idea! Another thought would be a county wide High School for the Performing and Visual Arts!

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  5. If the county is going to pony up the money for a performing arts center (that sort of thing has been a huge political loser for the Arlington Board, where its called a sign of runaway spending) its more likely to be in Tysons, which is the County's downtown, and lacks a cultural center. I can't see them putting it in Seven Corners. I also am not sure this building is that worthy of adaptive reuse.

    I really do think densification close to metro, and improving walkability and bikeability, IS the (realistic) visionioary goal for the inner parts of the County.

    Its odd, but I suppose not surprising, that in the rare instance we get a win, commenters can only complain.

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    1. How is this a win? More housing in a overcrowded area with no more space in our schools. Our doors need to be closed to more housing until we can get our situation under control.

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    2. The County is on a steady course of mediocrity. Mediocrity adds to more mediocrity and the cycle continues, but spirals downward. Housing without mass transit in an already depressed area will result in an onward slumming decline of our retail centers and neighboring communities.

      FFX should build metro and public/private catalysts to spawn growth that encourages a more blended economic and demographic mix. Seven Corners is known for its ethnic foods, a performing arts center would be complimentary and support an urban experience. More housing is a cattle car to failure unless the public investments are in place to sustain residential and economic development.

      The outdated models for economic growth being considered in this County needs to retire. This County needs a shot of Geritol, not more mediocre low income housing. With Arlington right next door boasting a successful example of smart growth should be looked to as template, otherwise FFX County will be the next PG County. And even PG has smartened up with National Harbor. FFX is stuck in Tysons and in a 50 year old declining parody of a June Cleaver suburb.

      It’s time to retire these old ideas of development and to look at out of the box solutions to solves Fairfax’s decline and influence in the metropolitan area.

      Metro first
      Public investment
      Private/Public partnerships
      Private investment and growth opportunities
      Less dependency on the State and VDOT
      More reliance on smart growth for an evolving and sustainable population.

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    3. This is 1.5 miles from th EFC metro station. There is NOT going to be a new metro line there at the colst of billions. 1.5 miles is a doable walk, and an easy bike ride. And there is a study going on for a dedicated transitway (either streetcar or bus rapid transit) on route 7. Eventually we could see something like that (cooperating with ArlCo) on Rte 50.

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    4. We need more new high end housing, which this is, and it will likely not add much to school enrollment. Its also NOT an overcrowded area, by urban standards, which is what this area will become. Its most definitely a win.

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    5. Operative word being "urban". Quality of life is better when the suburbs can stave off
      over-development.

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  6. They're not making any more land inside the Beltway, and there's less and less money available for the kind of road improvements that have spawned growth as far as Haymarket, Warrenton, and Ashburn. Millennials are less wedded to their cars, more interested in biking and transit.

    The commenter above at 9:02 is right: densification is the future. Seven Corners is not going to remain a 1960 retail area forever. And honestly--the area is pretty ugly as it is now. Woodies, Garfinkels and Lord & Taylor aren't coming back, but it will be nice when _someone_ invests in the area again.

    NIMBY's cousin BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing ANywhere, Anytime) is an option, of course, but I don't think it's the appealing choice.

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  7. This about sums it up "The average household income in Seven Corners is $42,000, compared to a countywide average of $107,000. The task force proposes a significant amount of affordable housing—15 percent of the total—while attracting new middle-income residents" This is Culmore part II. Attracting middle income residents LMFAO

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    1. Its 85% market rate housing. 1.5 miles from EFC metro. Have you priced a new unit in City of Falls Church lately? Its not at like Culmore (btw I would bet dollars to doughnuts the developers have their eyes on Culmore - they are waiting on ArlCo to get serious about PikeRail though.

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    2. I hope you are right and that the developers are looking at culmore but sadly I don't see it. I am fearful that any apartment buildings constructed are going to be stocked with multi-families as you have in Culmore. Further overloading the schools, especially Bailey's. As far as schools go it really is not hard to see the problem as to why Bailey's is so overcrowded. Just stand in front of the school and you will see stroller after stroller coming through. Now the county has school building to relief pressure at the main school. How long to that is filled. The county doesn't enforce ordinance laws etc.. and everything is free...

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  8. Stuart High School students will be taught in trailers in 5 yrs! Can you imagine that! These developers need to lease land to the county, for a new high school!

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  9. Good: It is part of a much larger plan.
    Bad: as noted, the schools question needs to be at the top. The new build will be next to an elementary school, but they don't expect many school-aged kids? come on...

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  10. "The land use component calls for a lot more housing (from about 700 units currently to about 2,500) and a town center with a street grid on the north side of Route 50."
    In all, there are nearly 6,000 new residential units proposed in the Seven Corners concept plan.

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  11. What a waste. Who is their right mind will wanna buy a place that faces some of the worst and LOUDEST traffic in the DC area, not to mention the nightmare getting in and out of your own parking area. That area is a shit hole and its current residents cannot come close to affording to live in the proposed buildings....

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    1. You talking about the Mosaic district? You might have been...five years ago. Those forecasts were wrong, too.

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  12. More families = we need more schools. The building planning seems to be far away from the county school planning. Overcrowded areas = trailers in schools. Be real.

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  13. Thanks for the item on the SEARS 7-Corners money grab. I think this will ignite a firestorm that our brainless, corrupt leaders in the county are going to have to pay attention to.

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  14. So according to the developer, traffic strain would be less because "...many of residents would be retired or would telecommute..."

    Why would anyone who is able to telecommute choose to pay the rent this guy probably wants to live in Seven Corners, of all places, if they didn't need to be close-in for their job? Same goes for retired people....I can't imagine Seven Corners or even much of Fairfax County is high on retirees' lists of places to spend the golden years.

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  15. If the citizens do nothing, the board of supervisors and developers will try to cram as many units (and tax revenue) into the lot as possible. The Seven Corners area is a traffic nightmare -- it doesn't matter who the new residents are, they will still add significant traffic to an already overburdened corridor. Does something need to be done with the Sear property and surrounding area buildings? Sure. But the decisions should be made by the county in discussions with the surrounding community, not the developers leading the way. Be very careful because right now this task force looks like nothing more than a front for shoving more development down our throats. Falls Church schools are already bursting at their seams...this will not help as currently proposed no matter what 'street' improvements are offered. I can't get over how jaded our current Board's priorities are.

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  16. There is no hope for 7 Corners or Bailey's Crossroads in the near term (1-10 years). Both places are really "holding" areas for long term land investments. I would recommend to anyone to look to other areas of the western beltway for a desirable place to live. I think it is almost impossible anything will be done that improves either area for many, many years. That doesn't mean bad Arlington-like retail areas won't be built (Rosslyn, Crystal City, Ballston, Columbia Pike).

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