|Seven Corners, with Route 7 in the foreground.|
The task force had been unable to reach a consensus on how to develop one of three areas in the Seven Corners study area – the piece along Route 7 occupied by Sears and a couple of office buildings – and a development proposal for that area from Foulger-Pratt generated a huge amount of opposition from local residents. So the Sears site will be dealt with separately.
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross announced at a meeting of the Lake Barcroft Association Sept. 22 a plan to form a committee made up of community association leaders to consider development possibilities for the Sears site.
“The special committee will spend the next three months reviewing the task force work on the Sears site and make its own recommendations that can be incorporated in the task force report,” states a Sept. 22 letter from Gross to Mason District residents. The committee will be chaired by Ravenwood resident Martin Faga, a former CEO of Mitre Corp. and a member of the Seven Corners task force. It will meet on Tuesday evenings at the Mason Government Center.
After that committee completes its work, its recommendation will be incorporated into the Seven Corners plan amendment approved by the task force. Public hearings on the plan amendment by the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, which had been scheduled to take place this fall, have been deferred until 2015. The task force will meet for the last time on Oct. 1.
The draft plan amendment calls for extensive transportation improvements – including three overpasses – to reduce traffic congestion at the Seven Corners interchange and improve access to Metro; a large increase in the amount of multifamily housing; and a town center on the site of the Willston shopping center. It’s a long-range plan with a projected time frame of 30 to 40 years.
The task force held dozens of meetings over the past two years featuring presentations on just about every aspect of existing conditions in Seven Corners and hosted two lengthy design charettes to formulate development guidelines for the area.
Thillman said one of the key conclusions that came out of the task force’s study is, “You need people with disposable income to support revitalization. If you don’t bring in people with money they can spend locally, you’ll end up with big-box stores.” He said residential development drives revitalization, not retail.
During the Sept. 23 task force meeting, members and county staff discussed various implementation issues that will be refined over the next few months. Eight “follow-on motions” to the plan amendment to be presented to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors call for the BoS to:
- Establish a Seven Corners Implementation Steering Committee consisting of members of the BoS and Falls Church City Council.
- Establish a Seven Corners working group consisting of members of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Falls Church City staff to guide the implementation of the redevelopment, public facilities, and vision for Seven Corners.
- Work with the City of Falls Church “to address the challenges associated with transitioning from recommendations in the Seven Corners Comprehensive Plan through the gateways into Falls Church City.”
- Develop cost estimates for the proposed transportation improvements. This will be done using a formula established by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
- Work with the City of Falls Church and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to complete the Route 7 Transit Alternatives Study and incorporate the study’s recommendations for some sort of rail or bus rapid transit line into the Comprehensive Plan. This is critical because there isn’t enough right-of-way in Falls Church to widen that stretch of Route 7.
- Direct county staff to further study the grid of streets proposed for Seven Corners to determine right-of-way needs.
- Direct the staff to use existing funding dedicated to Seven Corners transportation improvements and identify additional needed funding. The county’s six-year transportation plan includes $3 million for an engineering study of the Seven Corners interchange.
- Direct staff to conduct a phasing analysis to determine the order in which the transportation improvements should be implemented.
Marianne Gardner, director of the Planning Division in the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, told the task force the provisions on affordable housing for Seven Corners in the plan call for housing targeted to households in five different income tiers with the goal of preventing current residents from being displaced. The bottom tier would be households with incomes up to 60 of the area median. The other tiers would be for maximum household incomes of 70, 80, 90, 10, and 120 percent of the area median.
Currently, there are 589 affordable housing units in the Seven Corners redevelopment area concentrated near the Willston shopping centers between Route 50 and Wilson Boulevard. Gardner said the county needs to contribute more funding – in the form of Fairfax County Housing and Redevelopment Authority bonds, low-cost loans, and tax credits – to support new low-income housing to replace the existing units.