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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Seven Corners Task Force defers decision on redevelopment at Sears site

Del. Kory speaks at the Sept. 9 Seven Corners Task Force meeting.
Residents who spoke at the Sept. 9 Seven Corners Task Force meeting raised lots of concerns – mostly about the negative impact of overly dense redevelopment on already-overcrowded schools and congested roads, the need to improve the transportation system first, and the need to shield redevelopment at the Sears site from the existing neighborhood.

After two years of meetings, the task force is poised to complete a land use and transportation plan, which is scheduled to be presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission this fall in the form of a proposed amendment to the Seven Corners section of the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

It was standing room only at the Sept. 9 task force meeting.
Several people expressed frustration that their concerns will be ignored. “The public doesn’t seem to have a voice,” said Debbie Ratliff. “We expect to have a voice and a seat at the table.” Only a few of the task force meetings allow public comment.

Lots of local residents are still unaware of the process to create a new development plan for Seven Corners, said Del. Kaye Kory, who joined several others in urging the task force to delay a final vote until the public has more time to review and comment on the plan.

Clyde Miller urged residents to “tell the Planning Commission that we reject the plan.” Otherwise, commissioners will think it’s supported by the community. The task force was supposed to develop a “community vision,” he said, but there is no requirement that residents’ views will be taken into account.

Following the public comment period, task force members voted to defer until Sept. 23 a decision on a mixed-use redevelopment plan proposed by Foulger-Pratt for the Sears site on Leesburg Pike.

Task force members did, however, agree to eliminate two of the four options under consideration. Of the remaining options, one calls for 165 multifamily units, 110 townhouses, 200,000 square feet of office space, and 134,000 square feet of retail. The other option would allow more flexibility, with 315 to 415 multifamily units, 110 townhouses, 34,000 to 134,000 square feet of retail, and 50,000 square feet of office space.

Many residents prefer less density and a more balanced mix of housing, offices, and neighborhood-serving retail. New offices aren’t economically feasible, however, as Fairfax County has 18 to 19 million square feet of vacant office space, said task force co-chair John Thillman.

Referring to the Sears site, Catriona McCormack, president of the Ravenwood Neighborhood  Association, said well-planned buildings are preferable to haphazard development and it would nice to walk to community-serving businesses. However, she asked, “what is the compelling reason for so much density when other areas have a track record of economically successful mixed-use development at significantly lower density levels?”

Thillman and several task force members agreed with residents’ concern that the development on the Sears site should be accessible only from Route 7 and that there should be no cut-throughs allowing access from Juniper Lane or the cul de sac at the end of Shadeland Drive. The task force agreed to insert language on that in a separate document, but tabled a motion to include it in the Comprehensive Plan amendment.

Regarding the transportation plan approved earlier this summer by the task force, there has been some confusion over the proposed “ring road” around the Seven Corners intersection. Rather than a “ring road,” it’s now more like a “C,” as City of Falls Church officials objected to improvements to Roosevelt Boulevard and N. Roosevelt Street.

Kris Morley-Nikfar of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said those roads were never really part of the ring road concept anyway and that improvements to those roads  aren’t needed to reduce traffic congestion, even if Seven Corners is developed at higher density levels.

Several people questioned the logic behind that statement. As one resident put it: How could you add thousands of residents to the area and not increase traffic? If a key part of the ring road is eliminated, Seven Corners “will be more like 11 corners,” said local resident Don Smith.

Another potential conflict has surfaced with the Fall Church City Council about improving access from Seven Corners to the East Falls Church Metro station. Falls Church officials oppose the task force plan to extend a bus rapid transit line under consideration for Route 7 to the Metro station. That is likely to be a key issue at a Sept. 15 meeting of the task force and Falls Church City Council.


  1. the extent that the "ring road" plan is a proxy for the whole Seven Corners devlopment plan, Falls Church City Council has stamped it "BAD IDEA." How much more bluntly can this be stated to the Task Force? Isn't this the proverbial 2 x 4?

  2. Dense development is oppossed because the transit is not there yet, and so everyone must drive. New transit is opposed because areas are low density and unsuitable for transit, which won't get enough riders to not be a waste of money. Folks, you have to start somewhere. Or not, but don't think opposing anything new will mean no change - it just won't be the kind of change you like. And FFX, PLEASE work with City of Falls Church. The inter jurisdictional squabbling is out of hand, and particularly hurts areas along the borders.

  3. The task force has worked for two years to “vision” a high-density housing project? I guess this should come as little surprise given the composition of the Mason District Supervisor-appointed panel. Though the developer “visioneers” have been thoroughly outed at this point, they seem shamelessly determined to avoid an informed engagement with the community, but are rather desperately driving a thoroughly self-serving plan through to the planning commission. I guess that’s where Penny Gross will have to show her true colors.

  4. This smells of further delay after delay after delay, At this rate half the folks in the picture above will be belly up before a brick is laid or task force vote and the rest will be pushing daisies before this project is even completed. Why is it surrounding neighborhoods, Ballston, Rosslyn, Courthouse, Tysons Corner, Falls Church etc... can build and improve (and don't give me the metro crap) yet the seven corners, bailey's crossroad, culmore area continues to get bogged down in BS. Isn't it about time to revitalize this area. This entire area should and could be great.. with 50, 66, the Metro, and 95 within close proximity and . just minutes to dc. This area should be a major hub for business, retail, and residential housing. But instead it looks like a cess pool around here. And enough with the affordable housing...all this amounts to is 5 families cramming into a one bedroom apartment. You would like believe it is the young professional or senior who will be occupying these units but it is not. I don't see any young professional right out of college moving into Culmore where rent is relatively cheap. Nothing is perfect. It never will be but as Anonymous 2:39 stated, "you have to start somewhere". . The problem around here is it never really gets started. Leaders need to lead and have vision if not step aside. Heck, even on relatively small projects they can't move forward, how can they possibly handle something grand such as this. How does Arlington get it done.

    1. "How does Arlington get it done."

      Arlington's board members are elected county wide, and are less inclined to listen to the local NIMBY's. Plus they have their success with the metro behind them, which they use to gain credibility for the rest of their vision.

    2. I assume "local NIBMY" is meant as derision?

      The point about the metro is well taken and it is that and a population of high-income professionals that figure into what has happened in N. Arlington. Not such an impressive feat - considering.

      "Getting it done" doesn't necessarily mean unqualified success:

  5. Arlington, perhaps, does a better and more honest job of listening to the community than FFX does (except it seems about the.street car line)

  6. Does anybody know what the two huge pylons are for that are being built along Route 50 directly west of seven corners? They look like supports for a highway ramp.

  7. LOL. The huge cement pillars directly west of 7Corners behind the twin BB&T buildings are elevator shafts for a 5-story, 188- unit, apartment building. This property is in Providence District in Fairfax County. More neighbors!

  8. Folks, check out this 2012 study, reported on this blog, that shows a very different and very very appealing vision for 7Corners:

    And here's the report -- it's really cool and bears no resemblance to what the BOS and the Task Force have cooked up with the developers: