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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mason land use committee opposes Baileys Gateway project

5600 Columbia Pike.

The Mason District Land Use Committee (MDLUC) voted Jan. 27 to oppose a multifamily development at 5600 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. The committee’s role is advisory, so the vote means the MDLUC recommends the Fairfax County Planning Commission reject an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan to facilitate the project.

The 3.8-acre site, at the northwest corner of Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, is currently occupied by a vacant office building.

The proposed Bailey’s Gateway project would have about 450 units – 70 percent of them would be one-bedroom and efficiency units; the rest would have two bedrooms. The plan amendment would allow retail on the ground floor, although the developer, Foulger-Pratt, is not planning to include retail.

In urging his colleagues to oppose the plan amendment, MDLUC member Stephen Smith said, “the schools are overcrowded, and the traffic sucks.” The property is in the attendance area of Glen Forest Elementary School, which is significantly overcapacity.

The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the plan amendment for Feb. 4 at 8:15 p.m. A Board of Supervisors hearing is set for March 3. The planning staff recommends approval, and the Bailey’s Crossroads/Seven Corners Revitalization Corporation endorsed the development in December.


  1. Good for them. I don't see how we can build ANY more housing like this in the Mason district until we get school overcrowding under control.

    1. Because the schools in Mason district are so good, that people will who can afford a house further out will raise families in small apartment (new apts being much costlier than 40 year old garden apts) just like they do in Clarendon. Cause the schools in Annandale are as sought after as those in Clarendon, and Annandale is equally convenient. Yeah. Right.

    2. "1/28/15 11:30" - I totally disagree.

      I don't see how Mason District is going to get school overcrowding under control until new developments bring in new people, new income, new resources, into Mason District.

      Your plan appears to be let Mason District become even more of a dump than most commenters on this site appear to think it is.

      Leave a vacant office building vacant so it further deteriorates and becomes an even bigger eyesore.

      Leave the vacant former Safari Lounge and the 60's era office building in Bailey Crossroads as is (a breeding ground for crime), and don't build a school there because even though school overcrowding is your #1 issue, and the developer is willing to dedicate $10 million, that site is not good enough for the kids.

      Let's not forget Graham Park Plaza, can't redevelop that site to include mixed (including residential) uses. No, let it remain as it is until it rots like most of the shopping centers on the other side of Arlington Boulevard.

      If Mason District does not allow new investment, the end result will be a poorer community with poorer schools.

      Those who can will either move from Mason or pay for their kids to attend non-public schools; and everyone else will live in a poorer community with poorer schools.

      Most people I know seem to like the redeveloped mixed-use Mosaic development in Merrifield.

      It strikes me as strange. The people in Mason District seem to appreciate the developers who invest outside of Mason District, and demonize those developers that want to invest inside Mason District.

    3. Did you not read the blurb, or the plans for this development? This will not be a Mosaic. This will not be a Fairfax Corner. This will not be a Reston Town Center. There are NO PLANS for retail. This is NOT planned to be a vibrant mixed-use community, as it is.

      "The plan amendment would allow retail on the ground floor, although the developer, Foulger-Pratt, is not planning to include retail."

      Fully hammer out the details of the Moncure AND the Willston Site schools, and then we can talk. Unfettered development with NO CONSIDERATION for schooling, transportation, and other issues affecting the surrounding communities is not acceptable.

      Perhaps find out why the office building was vacated, and why it will not work as office space, and why office space usage is declining in 7 corners.

      We can be a nicer district without bending to the whim of every developer that wants to plop hundreds of RSUs on every underused plot of land. Developers want to build, collect their money, leave town, and leave everyone else to pick up the pieces.

    4. The building has been vacant since the Defense Intelligence Analysis Group moved out a few years ago as part of the BRAC realignment of military facilities. There's a high vacancy rate for office buildings in Mason District. This is an old building and not in demand.

    5. Where is the "mixed-use" being proposed here?

    6. Stephen Smith said, “the schools are overcrowded, and the traffic sucks.”

      I appreciate the wisdom and leadership shown by Mr. Smith.

  2. It makes no sense to say that we need more development in Mason District in order to get more money for schools. School funding is based on the entire countywide tax pool. New development in Tysons provides money for the schools in Mason District no more and no less than development in mason district provides money for the schools in Mason District.

  3. this statement is false

    the people in Mason District seem to appreciate the developers who invest outside of Mason District, and demonize those developers that want to invest inside Mason District.

    What the people of Mason want is well thought out development that is multi use and makes sense. Not more strip malls, stand a lone apartment buildings and things that add to traffic, ugliness, pollution, etc. Smart growth is what the area needs. The area needs some better and new leadership on this issue.

    1. I believe the statement is true.

      You cannot expect a "vibrant mixed-use community" and "well thought out development that is multi use and makes sense" without first allowing for sufficient population growth to convince potential business partners and yes, developers, that there will be sufficient demand for more retail in Mason District.

      Right now, as is, there is simply insufficient local demand in the Mason District area to convince either developers (who do respond to what the market will actually pay for and support, and are not genies that build based on some wish that will result in bankruptcy - like building or expensively renovating an office building no one wants to occupy) or potential businesses to build or open more retail, restaurant, or service businesses in Mason District.

      There are many other growing locations in Alexandria (Potmac Yards), Fairfax (Merrifield, Tysons, Reston), and Loudoun (One Loudoun, Ashburn) counties that offer better business opportunities for these kinds of businesses. If you were honest with yourself, you would acknowledge this.

      If you are paying attention to what is going on in Arlington, the County Board just met and received a report from the County Manager that economic growth on Columbia Pike with articulated buses will be significantly less, and slower, than if the county implemented the Street Car plan.

      Choices have consequences.

      Arlington County decided not to implement the Street Car through the democratic process and that is fine.

      So for Mason District, in the case of this and all developers, tell them and no new residential redevelopments until the schools are no longer overcrowded.

      This is a choice that if the majority of the citizens want should be implemented. It may result in the smart growth you want occurring much farther into the future, if at all, but it's a choice.

    2. What in the sam hill are you talking about? Population growth - Residential or otherwise? Mason District already has the honor of having the highest populace per square mile in Fairfax County, but no, that isn't enough? Providence District comes close, but the other districts are far and away behind in residential population density.

    3. first allowing for sufficient population growth ? have you actually been to the area? it couldn't be any more dense!

  4. Will this be near the new street car? If I lived there will I be able to get to work in 20 minutes?

    1. Street car is dead.

      If the citizenry of Mason keeps saying no, developers will move on and we will be left with more white vans, boarding houses and a bigger dump than what Mason is now.

    2. Why can't we fix all of the broken windows of Mason? Too many white vans parked, too many boarding houses - these are things that can be fixed.

    3. To commenter at 10:18 pm.

      Zoning enforcement handles those issues and the county is having trouble keeping up as it is per your observation of too many commercial trucks and boarding houses.

      With heavy new residential development, all county services including Code Enforcement will be further strained.

    4. Response from 10:18 PM: First I am not sure why my pro-development response was deleted from the moderator of this site, unless there is a Blog agenda. So I will repeat my response again.

      Saying "NO" to development because of not enough school space and too much traffic is not a good enough reason to stifle growth in Mason, however it is a reasonable concern that needs to be addressed. Sometime the hoarse needs to come before the cart. Shortfalls of revenue ensure that improved services and more school construction will be cut. Development of underutilized land would help improve these budget shortfalls by enhancing the counties revenue stream and mitigating blighted sites.

      Ongoing debate and resistance to progress is parallel to the misguided past decision by County constituents of preventing Metro from being built to Skyline in the 1970s. This transit shortcoming has only added to the increase of white vans, boarding houses, blight and decreased interest of the millennium generation to desire Mason as a place to live.

      Older single, empty nesters and young people need affordable housing and walkable communities with good transit options. This has been proven right across the County line in Arlington where Columbia Pike is thriving. Why can't we have this here, why do we keep saying no, why does this district continue to be so backwards? You have to ask yourself is it the supervisor or is it the uninformed constituents who resist every development option?

      Let the urban planners, architects, transit planner, economists and the private development sector use their skills and smarts to help Mason thrive instead of being thwarted by the what ifs! If we continue to stall, developers will leave us for other pro-development areas and Mason will continue its ongoing spiraling decline and this very unproductive circular conversation. Without more tax revenue that development can provide this County and its district’s can’t grow and/or maintain the services we expect, such as good school, zoning compliance, public safety and transit options.

      Smart growth, resource and revenue management are a delicate balance of compromise, choices, good judgments, wit and political will. Voters and the district constituents do not always have the solutions or the where-with -all in their toolbox to solve these problems, so let the experts help and facilitate viable solutions.

      The "NO" word to development is foolish; short sided and will ensure Mason's suicide. Say "YES" with a caveat of smart compromise and reasonable expectations and we may have a chance for Mason to stand proud and be a desirable district to live, work and play.

    5. Anonymous 6:59 - Your post is spot on. I would love to see development for "Older single, empty nesters and young people need affordable housing" as you noted. My fear if the housing wont go to those intended and instead you will have one bedroom apartments become home for 4 families or more with multiple kids they can ill afford further flooding the school system. And what is the answer to that.. Oh yea build a new school instead of addressing the problem(s) causing the over capacity. Folks need to stop resisting development or this will continue to be one big cesspool. Time for the the district to move forward.

    6. 12:08 AM, I guess you are one of the unintelligent constituents in this County given that your only intelligent work is NAH. BTW, it is spelled No or Nay. May God save us from these fairfax baboons!

  5. Stephen Smith just NOW had a come to Jesus moment about the traffic problems in the Bailey's Crossroads area due to this one development? Where has he been? I havn't seen any traffic mitigating improvements to Bailey's streets i30 years. Of course Bailey's has pretty much been stagnant during that time. What is his proposal anyhow? Didn't this buidling generate traffic when it was occupied? What does he propose to do with the location? Maybe the Land Planning people have talents to figure out handling traffic and school crowding while allowing development. You'd think this problem has been confronted heretofore.

  6. If we need an East County Government Center this building would be ideal. It is the right size and assessed at about $20M. Why not use the $120M reserved for Penny's Palace to buy 5600 Columbia Pike, renovate the building, and then spend the balance on a high end school with fields at the Willston property?

    1. Excellent idea. Why didn't the County think of that? The building was vacant for years.