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Friday, January 20, 2012

Seven Corners primed for redevelopment

The view from the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 - there's usually way more traffic than this

Recent changes affecting commercial properties in Seven Corners could create opportunities for redevelopment, says Frank Sellers, president of the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation (BCRC).
Yet without a comprehensive, multi-year plan to encourage positive, mixed-use projects, new development could continue in the patchwork pattern that has led to massive traffic congestion, he says.

The owner of the stone building where the Seven Corners Animal Hospital is located at 6300 Arlington Blvd. has been declared bankrupt, although the vet clinic’s lease still has five years on it. The same person also owns an adjacent building at 6801 Wilson Blvd. Both properties have been foreclosed and are expected to be sold at auction.

6319 Castle Place
Three medical professional buildings, at 6305 and 6319 Castle Place and a larger one at 2946 Sleepy Hollow Road are for sale. That land is zoned for higher density than the current buildings, so it could eventually support a larger development project, said Clark Turner, sales associate with West, Lane and Schlager. This sale is not a foreclosure.

The owner is asking $225 a square foot, or $2.9 million for 6305, $3.8 million for 6319, and $6.9 million for 2946. A buyer could purchase the buildings separately or all together. It should be noted the sales brochure for those properties says average daily traffic along Route 7 is 41,000 cars.

Meanwhile, an eight-story Hampton Inn hotel has been proposed for Arlington Boulevard at the South Street intersection between the BB and T towers and American Lube. 
“Seven Corners Shopping Center is difficult to enter, difficult to park in, difficult to like,” Sellers wrote in the Lake Barcroft newsletter. “It’s a 1960s shopping district faced with the realities of the second decade of the 21st century.”

“Everybody knows the hideous intersection that brought Seven Corners its name and daily causes thousands of cars to stream through our neighborhood streets,” he continued. “But fixing the intersection would be a nightmare and a huge expenditure.”

Any new development will worsen the congestion on Route 7. “There are terrible right of way issues,” Sellers conceded. “If you widen Route 7, you’re going to put some shopping centers out of business. And if you put in streetcars, where would the cars go?”

Sellers believes addressing the mess at Seven Corners calls for an areawide solution that includes more than just the shopping center and intersection.

Seven Corners doesn’t have a chamber of commerce but it does fall under the jurisdiction of the BCRC, which worked for the past 10 years on developing a conceptual plan for the revitalization of Bailey’s Crossroads, which was adopted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last year.

Sellers would like to see the BCRC “spearhead a community effort to consider the future of Seven Corners.” He notes that “neither Fairfax County, the Office of Community Revitalization and Redevelopment, nor Mason Supervisor Penny Gross have ever done any overarching planning review for Seven Corners. We need to start.”

All the neighborhood groups close to Seven Corners need to be involved. “The community needs to come to come together and focus on what they would prefer for that area for the next 50 years,” Sellers says. “It has to be a process where everyone feels they are involved from the beginning.”

Two years ago, the Ravenwood Park Citizens Association mobilized local residents to oppose a major redevelopment project proposed for the Sears site on Route 7. The developer ultimately withdrew that proposal. But more projects are on the horizon. “Any time there’s a change of ownership, it creates an opportunity for development,” Sellers says.
Bailey’s Crossroads is poised for new development, too. A mixed-use project to include Fairfax County government offices for social service programs and about 300 residential units has been proposed for Moncure Avenue, next to Columbia Pike. That project has not gone through any official approval processes yet.

Meanwhile, a temporary fire station will be installed on that site while a new Bailey’s Crossroads fire station is built on its existing site to replace the building badly damaged in a 2010 snowstorm.

Sellers encourages local residents interested in development plans for Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads to attend BCRC meetings. The group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Mason District Government Building.

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