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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Seven Corners Task Force agrees on redevelopment plan, except for Sears site

Seven Corners, with Route 7 in the foreground.
The Seven Corners Task Force agreed Sept. 23 to endorse a draft redevelopment and transportation plan for the area – with the exception of the Sears site.

The task force had been unable to reach a consensus on how to develop one of three areas in the Seven Corners study area – the piece along Route 7 occupied by Sears and a couple of office buildings – and a development proposal for that area from Foulger-Pratt generated a huge amount of opposition from local residents. So the Sears site will be dealt with separately.

“We couldn’t come to grips on Sears,” said task force co-chair John Thillman. “It makes sense not to fight the Sears battle now.”

Mason Supervisor Penny Gross announced at a meeting of the Lake Barcroft Association Sept. 22 a plan to form a committee made up of community association leaders to consider development possibilities for the Sears site.

“The special committee will spend the next three months reviewing the task force work on the Sears site and make its own recommendations that can be incorporated in the task force report,” states a Sept. 22 letter from Gross to Mason District residents. The committee will be chaired by Ravenwood resident Martin Faga, a former CEO of Mitre Corp. and a member of the Seven Corners task force. It will meet on Tuesday evenings at the Mason Government Center.

After that committee completes its work, its recommendation will be incorporated into the Seven Corners plan amendment approved by the task force. Public hearings on the plan amendment by the Fairfax County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, which had been scheduled to take place this fall, have been deferred until 2015. The task force will meet for the last time on Oct. 1.

The draft plan amendment calls for extensive transportation improvements – including three overpasses – to reduce traffic congestion at the Seven Corners interchange and improve access to Metro; a large increase in the amount of multifamily housing; and a town center on the site of the Willston shopping center. It’s a long-range plan with a projected time frame of 30 to 40 years.

The task force held dozens of meetings over the past two years featuring presentations on just about every aspect of existing conditions in Seven Corners and hosted two lengthy design charettes to formulate  development guidelines for the area.

Thillman said one of the key conclusions that came out of the task force’s study is, “You need people with disposable income to support revitalization. If you don’t bring in people with money they can spend locally, you’ll end up with big-box stores.” He said residential development drives revitalization, not retail.

During the Sept. 23 task force meeting, members and county staff discussed various implementation issues that will be refined over the next few months. Eight “follow-on motions” to the plan amendment to be presented to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors call for the BoS to:
  • Establish a Seven Corners Implementation Steering Committee consisting of members of the BoS and Falls Church City Council.
  • Establish a Seven Corners working group consisting of members of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Falls Church City staff to guide the implementation of the redevelopment, public facilities, and vision for Seven Corners.
  • Work with the City of Falls Church “to address the challenges associated with transitioning from recommendations in the Seven Corners Comprehensive Plan through the gateways into Falls Church City.”
  • Develop cost estimates for the proposed transportation improvements. This will be done using a formula established by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
  • Direct county staff to further study the grid of streets proposed for Seven Corners to determine right-of-way needs.
  • Direct the staff to use existing funding dedicated to Seven Corners transportation improvements and identify additional needed funding. The county’s six-year transportation plan includes $3 million for an engineering study of the Seven Corners interchange.
  • Direct staff to conduct a phasing analysis to determine the order in which the transportation improvements should be implemented.
Marianne Gardner, director of the Planning Division in the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, told the task force the provisions on affordable housing for Seven Corners in the plan call for housing targeted to households in five different income tiers with the goal of preventing current residents from being displaced. The bottom tier would be households with incomes up to 60 of the area median. The other tiers would be for maximum household incomes of 70, 80, 90, 10, and 120 percent of the area median.

Currently, there are 589 affordable housing units in the Seven Corners redevelopment area concentrated near the Willston shopping centers between Route 50 and Wilson Boulevard. Gardner said the county needs to contribute more funding – in the form of Fairfax County Housing and Redevelopment Authority bonds, low-cost loans, and tax credits – to support new low-income housing to replace the existing units.


  1. As long as so many low-income residents are concentrated in Seven Corners, Culmore and Bailey's Crossroads, the prospect of attracting higher-income residents to the Seven Corners area is remote at best. Both Culmore and the aging garden complexes near Willston need to be condemned and torn down in their entirety. Otherwise all these plans will simply gather dust.

  2. Five thousand new apartments. 25 new hi-rise apartment buildings (6-12 stories each). Less retail space. More cars. More traffic. More than a mile from Metro. Eleven Corners. $500 million annually for developers, but nothing for neighboring communities. Thanks a lot, Task Force!

  3. And just where do you want the low-income residents to go? The low-income are spoken about very thoughtlessly Oh that's right's ok for us to work here,we're just not suppose to live here.One never knows in their life what circumstances may change their way of living-even for the rich.Who want's to be low-income? I'm sure no one.But life ,sickness and unforeseen expenses come to all and one never knows .Many a rich man have been made pennyless by lifes circumstances.How inconsiderate to want to plow down all low income housing.One day it might be you.

  4. another penny gross and company developer pay back

  5. Low income is fine but they need to revise or enforce the occupancy laws. Low income is also not an excuse for committing crimes, littering, or loitering/drinking in public. This is spilling over in to the middle class neighborhoods and neighborhood qualities are diminished from what they were 20 years ago.

  6. I'd suggest that to alleviate some concerns about traffic the planned development require phased in upgrades to the transportation infrastructure. Each new phase of development could require completion of some new phase of the transportation plan. Then we don't start phase 2 of commercial space development until phase 1 of transportation development is complete.

  7. The Sears site should be taken by eminent domain and turned into a park site!

  8. Oh,,,,,so there is no drinking ,or crime amongst people from middleclass neighborhoods? HmmmThen I guess we better all head for the middleclass neighborhoods. LOL In fact drug use is even rampant in the upperclass neighborhoods . Read and listen to the news . Sorry ,but there is good and bad in all walks of life.Not just low-income.Just because people are low-income does not mean they will commit crimes to make up for it.Besides,if you have no low-income people in your neighborhoods ,who is going to wait on you,or do you want to do the hard labor jobs that low-income people do.Or is it that you expect those people to commute from far away to come to serve you,build homes for you ,clean your house ,wait on you in stores etc.

    1. Its the concentration/ghetto affect. Alexandria City disperses the poor so that it does not negatively impact one or two neighborhoods, FFX dumps the poor on Mason........just saying. We need all classes to have shelter and live amongst us. What we don't need is a ghetto of illegals and criminals to take advantage of the disadvantaged. And that is what you get in a ghetto and that is Culmore. Thank goodness for the good ethnic restaurants to draw in a mix of people to the area.

  9. I recommend space for the arts. I'd love a dance studio, but flex gallery/classes/performance space would be great. The arts always revitalize communities (Adams Morgan, Brookland, Clarendon).

    1. The county has already bailed out a failing arts place. Look up Lorton Arts Center and how the county is footing the $30M bail out. Your tax dollars at work. Thanks for voting yes Penny, your negligence is just ....