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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Seven Corners property owners consider redevelopment potential

The Seven Corners Shopping Center used to be an enclosed mall.
The Seven Corners Land Use and Transportation Task Force has some pretty ambitious plans for turning the aging commercial crossroads into a higher-density, walkable hub with a mix of more upscale housing, retail, and office structures. But will the Seven Corners property owners be willing to invest in redevelopment?

The answer appears to be mixed, judging from the task force’s Aug. 6 meeting, where property owners were invited to give their perspective on a preliminary outline for potential redevelopment put together during a lengthy design charrette June 27.

Vincent Burke, a representative of Saul Centers, which owns the Seven Corners Shopping Center, had a positive reaction to a proposal to create a town-center development on that site similar to the Mosaic District in Merrifield. Task force members are considering a new street grid there and taller buildings with retail on the ground floor and housing on the upper stories.

The Willston I Shopping Center.
But Jim McIlvaine, a part owner of property on the other side of Route 7 occupied by Sears and two office buildings, was not interested in redevelopment. He said there is no incentive to redevelop that site within the next 20 years. “Forty years from now the plan could work,” he said, but for now, he and his partners consider redevelopment in Seven Corners “pie in the sky.”

A major redevelopment project that had been proposed for that site several years ago was withdrawn in January 2010 in the face of widespread public opposition.

Jim Edmonston, a principal with the E&G Group, which owns the 283-unit Seven Corners Apartments on Willston Drive, expressed some reservations about the economic feasibility of putting higher-density, market-rate apartments on that site.

The average cost of building  new apartments with a range of sizes would be $251,000 per unit, he said, assuming they would be in a four-story, wood-frame building with one parking space per four units. “I could never imagine a case where underground parking could be justified,” he said, noting the cost of underground parking would be about $40,000 to $60,000 per space.

When it comes to the potential for redevelopment, “Seven Corners is not a bad area but it can’t compete with Tysons and Merrifield,” Edmonston said. He did note, however, that the Seven Corners Apartments haven’t had a major renovation in many years. 

A representative of the Regency Centers, which owns the Willston I and Willston II shopping centers on Route 50, wasn’t at the Aug. 6 meeting. During the charrette session, David Corini, Regency’s vice president of investments, had a positive reaction to the proposal to develop a mixed-use town center on that property.

For some of the task force members, the perspective of the property owners offered a reality check, underscoring the difficulty of getting the private sector to invest in Seven Corners. But task force co-chair John Thillman is optimistic.

“This is a great plan. We just need to push it through,” Thillman said, noting that all of the landowners except McIlvaine seem to be on the same page in terms of the results of the charrette.

Thillman anticipates the task force having a final proposal for redevelopment completed in time for a Board of Supervisors decision in October 2014. That means the final planning language needs to be completed by next May or June.

In September, the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization staff will present a report on the charrette, filling in some of the details. After that, the task force will start focusing on transportation—because redevelopment won’t be possible unless something is done to improve transit and reduce traffic congestion.


  1. I would love to see the Fairfax County Office of Community Development shine some of that attention on the LONG neglected Annandale Business district instead of 7 Corners. If the business owners and residential communities aren't keen to redevelopment at this time, the county should be paying attention to a community that has long BEGGED for redevelopment, as the residents of Annandale have.

    1. I am with you 100 percent.

  2. Upscale housing? Somebody did not get the memo!
    The Countys new big push is for more affordable residential studio apartments, apodments or micro units.

  3. 1. They SHOULD push forward on Annandale - but I think that will await transportation investments (the fixing of the road net and creation of complete streets - there is a plan, but its never been funded) But meanwhile Seven Corners is closer to the Orange Line and to Tysons. And there is a study on transit on the rte 7 corridor. 7 corners probably is closer to fruition than Annandale.

    2. There is no contradiction between haveing upscale housing, and having microunits. There is need for both.

    3. Note - underground parking costs 60k a space. but at 1 space per four units (which will require aggressive provision of transit, bike lanes, etc) thats only 15k per unit.

  4. 1 parking space per every 4 units AND retail AND offices? What the heck are they smoking? Metro cannot get you to the hospital, Metro cannot get your cat to the veterinarian, Metro can't get you to your family in Pennsylvania, and it sure as heck can't get you to work on time. We don't even go into DC anymore because the parking is so bad there. It's time that the developers and planners stop getting away with not providing adequate residential and commercial parking. It will be the kiss of death for Seven Corners, but maybe that's what they want; sure would eliminate a lot of traffic to that location because I'm sure I'm not the only one who would avoid the area like the plague.

  5. actually the 402 bus can get you to the hospital. But in any case, you can rent a car for that - maybe use zipcar. And loads of NoVans use metrorail, metrobus and cycling to get into DC every day.

    Look at how well the central areas of DC are doing, look at Clarendon, etc. You don't need lots of parking to be successful. And if you do, guaranteed the developers will push for it. They know their markets pretty well. BTW I am pretty sure parking for the commercial uses would be over and above the 1 per four residential units.

  6. How about some affordable housing options?