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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Land use experts weigh in on revitalization strategies for Seven Corners

The pedestrian bridge over Arlington Boulevard
With Fairfax County in the earliest stages of exploring redevelopment possibilities for Seven Corners, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) issued a brief report in May outlining how land use experts think the area can be improved.

Fairfax County’s efforts for dealing with Seven Corners began with a “visioning exercise” May 21, where residents and business owners came up with ideas for revitalizing an area burdened with traffic congestion and aging strip malls.

Several common themes emerged at that session: Make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists; provide mass transit or otherwise alleviate the traffic congestion, and preserve the area’s diverse population and affordable housing. That session and future community meetings are the initial steps in the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization’s process for coming up with a framework for guiding redevelopment in Seven Corners. 

The ULI report was prepared by land use and real estate professionals in ULI’s nine-month Leadership Institute. The culminating exercise for participants is a series of mini-technical assistance panels that work on  local land use challenges.

The group that studied Seven Corners came up with these recommendations:

They would transform Route 50 into a main boulevard via an elevated park that overcomes transportation and topographical barriers. They would also improve and expand the existing pedestrian bridge, install public art, and aggressively pursue fundraising and grants.

To improve walkability, the group called for a traffic study for the main intersection; safer pedestrian connections, including pathway markings across paved areas and wider sidewalks with more green space; bike racks; and bus benches.

On the southwest side of Route 7, by Sears, the group recommends high-end retail to appeal to the demographics of that area, a walkable street front, and design standards and architecture appropriate for nearby neighborhoods.

For the northeast side of Route 50, by the Willston Multicultural Center, the group envisions the consolidation of properties through a public/private partnership and a new, better designed multicultural center.

They propose these marketing strategies for Seven Corners: Improve maintenance around existing facilities, make it easier for pedestrians and motorists to find their way through the area, install entrance features on main roads, beautification through landscaping, foster community pride through civic groups, issue a request for proposals for a new multicultural center, start a community partnership, and implement design guidelines for important projects.

Improving Seven Corners would benefit the entire region, the ULI group asserts. It would move the focus from roads to people and better pedestrian facilities would lead to a “greener community.” A pilot project at Seven Corners would create a template for repositioning other communities with aging or failing shopping centers, it states, and new development would lead to more jobs and a higher tax base.

The ULI report could provide some food for thought for the next “visioning exercise,” which is scheduled for June 18, 7 p.m., at the Fairfax County/Falls Church Human Services Center, 6245 Leesburg Pike. In addition, a major clean-up effort to get rid of the litter and illegal signs along Route 7 is tentatively scheduled for June 23.

1 comment:

  1. I think the ULI report is a great step by step revitalization map that can be done.

    However, the community/residents/businesses really need to take the lead and get involved because the County has been concentrating its resources on other areas that have higher tax bases.

    The upcoming June 23rd Clean up of Seven Corners, Route 7, is an action to bring people out to see firsthand on the ground what we can do ourselves for pedestrians and for landscaping grants or donations of money and/or time.

    We can also start by encouraging businesses in Seven Corners to clean up and beautify their facades. The county can enlarge sidewalks and also contribute to landscaping not in the future but now. This will not break the County's budget! The ULI report proposes "... moving the focus from roads to people and better pedestrian facilities would lead to a “greener community.” Many things we (community/businesses) can get done in the next couple of years or less that will make a big difference.

    It was impressive to see all the different communities come out for the first Seven Corners Revitalization Meeting. Everyone's passion about and caring for the Seven Corners area really showed. People spoke about what they envisioned for Seven Corners because they lived, worked, or owned businesses here. Also they didn't want to lose the Seven Corners character lost to become just another carbon copied mixed use development.