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Friday, January 8, 2016

SE Quadrant would spur Bailey's Crossroads redevelopment

Columbia Pike, with the Southeast Quadrant on the right.
Fairfax County officials told local residents at a community meeting Jan. 7 that a real estate deal involving a land swap and land purchase is necessary to spur redevelopment in a rundown section of Bailey’s Crossroads.

The real estate transaction for the 4.47-acre area known as the Southeast Quadrant includes these elements:
  • Fairfax County would exchange property it owns next to Moncure Avenue with property in the middle of the site that AvalonBay would purchase from the Weissberg Corp.
  • The county would purchase the office building next to Radley Acura, known as Bailey’s International Center, from Landmark Atlantic
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the land swap on Jan. 12. If it is approved, AvalonBay would build a 375-unit apartment building facing Moncure Avenue. Future plans call for an East County Government Center in the middle of the Southeast Quadrant and a new road connecting Columbia Pike and Seminary Road.

All the buildings currently in that area, including the Landmark building, the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter, and the old Safari restaurant, would be demolished. 

Landmark purchase questioned

At the meeting, several residents raised concerns about the county’s plans to purchase the Landmark building: They complained the county is paying too much, the county is using taxpayer dollars to benefit AvalonBay, and the apartment project could proceed without the need to tear down that building.

“Why is the county tearing down one office building and planning to build another?” one resident asked. “It’s not a good deal for the community,” another resident said, adding that the area has a 47 percent office vacancy rate.

According to Tracy Strunk, deputy director of the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization, the Landmark building has to be taken down to make room for the new road and to ensure there is enough space for the county office building.

The county and Landmark agreed on a purchase price of $6.4 million, with AvalonBay paying $250,000 of that and the county paying the balance. The county would use transportation funds for the purchase, not money slated for schools or other purposes.

Landmark had wanted to sell the building for more than what the county was willing to pay; their starting price was $9 million, said Deputy County Executive Robert Stalzer, who added, “We had appraisals done that were actually higher than what we’re paying.”

“We believe the Landmark acquisition is in the best interest of making redevelopment in this part of the county happen,” he said. “Taking the Landmark building out of the equation will allow us to do more faster than having to work around it.

According to Strunk, the county has determined that an East County office building “would be appropriate for this site,” but there hasn’t been a decision to go forward with that.

Stalzer said the county building is needed because it is spending $3.4 million a year on leased office space and it would be advantageous to consolidate services in one building. It would house agencies currently located in Annandale on Little River Turnpike and other locations..

The AvalonBay apartments would be market rate, although the county requires 12 percent of the units to be workforce housing, meaning they would be affordable to households at 80 to 120 percent of the area median income.

After the real estate transaction is agreed to, the rezoning process will begin, probably during this summer, Strunk said. AvalonBay would then develop a site plan covering the technical engineering details. That work could start next fall and continue through spring 2017.

Shelter would be relocated

A key element of the Southeast Quadrant plan is the need to relocate the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter. “Moving the shelter is integral” to the whole process, Stalzer said. “There are a lot of moving parts here.”

The shelter will probably have to be moved to a short-term, temporary location until the county can find a suitable permanent site that can also provide transitional housing, not just bunks for the night, said Mason Supervisor Penny Gross. “The way homeless services are delivered now differs from when shelters were established. That model doesn’t work as well anymore.”

The county officials declined to say where the homeless shelter would be relocated until negotiations with the landowner are finalized. “We believe the negotiations will be successful,” Stalzer said. If not, “we have at least two other options.”

A new road

Gross said the new road would create a more logical connection between Seminary and Columbia Pike. An exact location of the road hasn’t been determined, but it would need to line up with the traffic signal at the entrance to the shopping center on the other side of Columbia Pike, said Strunk.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has sketched out several options but a final decision would depend on what happens with the properties in that area, she said.

This county has tried to promote the redevelopment of this area for many years, Strunk said, but developers weren’t interested until a new road became a part of the plan. “This doesn’t guarantee that it will happen, but it does set it up,” she said. There would also be a grid of streets inside the Southeast Quadrant.

Schools overcrowded

Several residents brought up the issue of overcrowded schools, especially Glen Forest Elementary, which serves the Southeast Quadrant and is already way above capacity.

School capacity issues would be considered during the rezoning and proffer processes, Gross said, and the school board might want to make changes in school boundaries.

Seventy-percent of the units in the AvalonBay apartments would be studios and one-bedroom units; the rest would have two bedrooms, Stalzer noted, so there wouldn’t be a huge increase in the school-age population. Under the county’s formula, he said, there would only be about 25 to 30 new students.

A school had been in an earlier plan for the Southeast Quadrant but now there’s a conceptual plan for a school at the Willston Center instead which was included in the Seven Corners comprehensive plan approved by the Board of Supervisors in July.

Several residents who live along Lacy Boulevard and Ellery Circle raised concerns about increased traffic and overflow parking generated by 375 new housing units plus the many employees at the new office building.

Those issues would be considered during the rezoning process; the upcoming board hearing is just on the land swap, Gross said. AvalonBay will have to have to come up with a plan for addressing traffic and parking.

“This is just the first step,” Gross said. The rezoning proposal will be reviewed by the Bailey’s Crossroads Revitalization Corporation, Mason District Land Use Committee, and several county agencies before it’s taken up by the Planning Commission.


  1. Do it as soon as possible.

    This eyesore of an area needed to be redeveloped over a decade ago.

    Ignore the complainers who complain about any new development; and then whine when the State Department of Motor Vehicles moves into a storefront that has been vacant for over two years.

    1. Amen.
      Pretty soon we will get a bad rep for easing new development and no one will want to deal with us..Thus, a self fulfilling prophecy.

    2. This is a great accomplishment and I look forward as many others look forward to ending this blight that has plagued Columbia Pike for way too long. I hope PG can pull it off after losing so much credibility on other development proposals in the district. Regardless this is a good win for Baileys and the surrounding communities........thank you.

      However, as for the DMV it will be a new initiative for blight at Barcroft. The democratic leadership has failed us, this is not an equal comparison. The DMV is government sanctioned cronyism. I am embarrassed that I voted for the leadership that continues to be silent on the decimation of Barcroft Plaza, the businesses that support the local community, and the populace that this leadership has proclaimed to represent. It is a disgraceful example of leadership looking out for their jobs and not their constituents. President Obama (to quote Donal Trump), its time to shed these losers, they make us all look bad.

    3. "Amen.Pretty soon we will get a bad rep for easing new development and no one will want to deal with us..Thus, a self fulfilling prophecy."
      True, and all the more reason to clean up our commercial areas by returning to a policy of enforcing the zoning and building codes until such time as more appropriate development can be attracted to our district. Our commercial and residential areas were very attractive before we abandoned code enforcement. I can't imagine why we decided to do that unless it was to pave the way for more unsustainable development.

    4. 100% agree that we should get code enforcement working before getting into new development. the problem is that the county sells us on all the proffers and restrictions they have gotten and then there is no enforcement of them. just on columbia pike you could count about 50 violations and when you report them, it goes no where. remember also when they were going to crack down on places using yard signs? drive around today and see 100 of them on rt 7

  2. i am fine with these lots being developed. i think the land swap with the county and the county building an office there is sketchy. there is a building 100% empty on the corner of carlin springs and columbia pike they should use.

  3. > the county requires 12 percent of the units to be workforce housing

    12%!! Wow!! What a bold vision ...

    While I don't think anyone would deny the area needs some work, it would be nice to see a broad, livable, community-oriented strategy that would produce enough 'workforce housing' to allow some of the area's awful turn-of-the-century roach motels to be torn down.

    Instead, we get what seem to be more steps in line with the status quo : "If you don't make $100k+ a year, screw you, get out."

    More Cosis, more Walgreens, more dog botiques ...

    And people say that DC politicians are out of touch!!

    1. Affordable housing proponents need not worry. The apartment building will be effectively 100% affordable housing within a year or two after it is built. The market rate units will be leased to a tenant at market rate who will then sublease it to several tenants for about $1500 a month each, yielding a net income well above market rate. "Workforce" units will be similarly sublease to 2, 3 or more tenants.
      This is exactly the model of the RSU proposal supported by Penny Gross and the unholy affordable housing/developer alliances in the past, only this proposal does not require Board approval once this project is built. Project, as in Cabrini-Green project, another example of public/private partnerships that turned out to be disastrous for the municipality and its residents.
      As demonstrated in the past, Code Compliance has no intention of intervening. So just think of it as a 100% affordable housing project. There will be the occasional failed enforcement effort but nothing to make a dent in the multiple occupancy violations. The 'Kate and Alley' legislation a while back permitting 4 unrelated occupants in residential housing in Virginia ensures that most illegal multiple occupancy violations, will be nearly impossible to enforce.

  4. Thus far I have not been impressed with the public process on this issue (how penny squeezed in the comp plan amendment last jan for this without public input). I also am uneasy with Penny having a lot of $$$ ties to those with vested interest in this deal, and do expect her to properly recuse herself from all of the zoning process.

    That being said, this area does need redeveloping. Its high crime, and hopefully some development will help. I don't have high hopes on Penny's notes on getting any kind of significant proffers for schools which is sad, but at least there will be a bit less blight.

    I also really hope there will be some kind of opportunities to kill the county office building. It kills me to see the county wanting to waste money and carbon by tearing down and building new when we have such high office vacancy in the area.

    1. I agree with you Jeffrey but the land swap is a bad deal for the taxpayers. We are going to pay for a temporary shelter until a new shelter is put up. The schools should be considered before allowing this to go forward. I also loved how Penny said that the School Board would have to rezone. Rezone into what school? The schools in Mason District are at or above capacity. They also do not want to tell us will the shelter going to be because they know that people will be upset when they find out. I love the idea of redeveloping the area but there is too many fishy things going on for my taste. We do not need a East County Office Building that is a joke.

    2. All fair points, and go to the basic sense of I really don't like how this is being handled (I am especially sensitive to the school crowding issues).

      but in the end, this area might be one of the most in need of redevelopment in the district (there are others, but this is certainly in the very top tier). I put a ton of effort in the election season because of this kind of thing - penny is too intertwined financially with development interests for my taste, has made a charade and a spectacle of the public process, and is not being a true supporter of the schools unless its in an election year. but in the end she is still there and I have to fight my battles. This one I see lots of minuses, but there are definitely positives to redevelopment happening. so, in the end, I'm more of a "meh" on this. its government. its going to be wasteful and have stupidity built in by nature. but at least something positive will come from it, and at this point it doesnt seem to me that the collateral damage to the county is so extreme that I personally need to get involved.

  5. Yes, it is clear enough that this area is ripe for development. It seems equally clear that the reason this area is so ripe for redevelopment is because the Department of Code Compliance was ordered to consider Baileys a free fire zone for code violators so it would reach this its grotesquely blighted state. That having been accomplished we, of course would accept anything proposed to us, even this multi-million dollar give-away to the developers who's money put their champion, Supervisor Penny Gross in office which is why there were so many anyone-but-Penny voters and why she won anyway: Developer money is the only thing that talks or is listened to in Mason District. This area has location, location, location. Problem is it also has corruption, corruption, corruption so we the homeowners don't get to participate in the areas natural appreciation in value. Them that has gets. Its not land use, its a RICO case.

    1. AMEN to this. The county lets stuff go on purpose for sure. Look at the Geico on Rt 7. Why haven't they been enforcing anything on that or the lots around it for a year. I wonder.

    2. That's a pretty strong charge to be leveling. Some might say even slanderous. I'm not a big penny supporter, but I don't think accusations of this sort do anything to help the situation. I suggest that if you have proof, post it. If not, keep your keyboard at rest.

    3. It is never slander to speak the truth and proof is never enough to stop the lying when there is money to be maid but if you want evidence just walk Columbia Pk. from Blaire Rd. to Rt.7 with a code book in you hand. If you want motive, look at the Supervisor’s campaign receipts, if you want means check out her resume power like that is all the means one would ever need , if you want opportunity check out our campaign financing laws. It is all there. The keyboard will stay busy for the foreseeable future friend.

  6. Let me clear up an error that keeps being repeated. The county DOES NOT require 12% affordable housing for every new project. That is a suggestion only, but Penny gloms on to it as if it were a Golden Rule and Mason District didn't have enough affordable housing already.

    Readers, do you realize we are talking about 12%"workforce housing", which means that we are subsidizing people who make up to $130,000/yr?

    I have witnessed BOS decisions for new housing projects in other districts where ZERO affordable housing was included. Affordable housing is at the desire of the supervisor and it is not equitable throughout FFX County. I wish it were. If affordable housing was laced throughout the county our roads would be less clogged as low income workers could live closer to their jobs. It would help relieve overcrowding in Mason District schools and the excessive stress on our social services and infrastructure.

    However, all is not equitable and fair in FFX County. Mason District continues to be a dumping ground. Unfortunately we have a supervisor who lacks business acumen and does not share the vision the residents have for their communities. She acquiesces to her crony developers. Now Thillman is getting his pay for serving as her lead co-chair in the 7 Corners revitalization railroad job. $6.6M for his property to build a road to nowhere with the claim that no developer will build in the SEQ without the road? There isn't even a plan in play to connect through to Seminary. Its all talk. Thillman wants his money and Penny is poised to deliver.

    Do we need revitalization in the SEQ? Hell yes! Lack of code enforcement there and elsewhere in Mason District has made us the sewer of FFX County and the SEQ reeks. Anyone wonder why we have 47% office vacancy? Is there a correlation here?

    Penny's land swap is fraught with missing information and excessive expenditure of taxpayer monies. The temporary homeless shelter will cost millions to the taxpayer. The poor are her pawns. All their medical and dental services have been moved to Merrifield at taxpayers expense and the low income workers inconvenience. Now they are being moved temporarily only to be shuttled somewhere else later. At huge expense to us.

    A $6.6M road to nowhere plus costs for demolishing the tall building. Add the cost of her East County Government Center. She admitted at the Jan. 7 meeting that she didn't have permission to build an ECGC. Say what? She already spent $3.65M on a design. What gives?

    There has not been a traffic study done to determine impact on Columbia Pike or the need for a new cut through to Seminary Rd. After all, there already a cut through within one block.

    There is no statement of need for Penny's ECGC. The public deserves to know what the money is being spent on, but we are kept in the dark.

    Penny is a spendthrift and we're stuck with her for another 4 years. Her 20 year legacy to Mason District is decline and lack of vision. This plan for the SEQ is not what this community needs or even wants, but she really really doesn't care.

  7. I desperately want renewal in the SEQ, but I don't see anything in this plan that benefits the existing community. The 2007 plan called for mixed use with residences and walkable retail and pocket parks. A destination. The plan was for the shelter to remain. Why can't Avalon Bay build something like this that the community wants and needs in order to make our area welcoming and attractive? Just more rental units and another office building don't cut it. What does this plan do for us? Clean up blight but nothing else.

    Why isn't Penny making a serious attempt to repurpose some of the 47% vacant office spaces nearby? I agree that the empty office building at Carlin Spring and Columbia Pike is worth a look.

    Penny has another ad hoc plan without vision. We need a comprehensive plan for renewal in Mason District. The Bailey's Crossroads Revitalization Plan provided that and now it is being usual. No more! Follow the plan. Don't tell me there weren't any takers for the plan. I think its all in how you negotiate the deal.

    It is past time for a citizen committee to be part of the negotiations for the implementation of our revitalization planning. Politicans and government workers need to step aside and let business-minded people use their connections get the job done well.

    1. Avalon is going to build what the market demands. Condos are out and rentals are in. These at some point can be converted to condos should market forces change. This development if done right could be the trigger that sets off all of Baileys. My hope is that transit options will be improved so that renters will want to live, shop and recreate there. Right now the public transportation in this area is anemic: broken down bus shelters, unsafe and poorly located bus stops, irregular and undependable bus routes. If it takes longer to use metro, people are going to use their cars. Its a no brainer. And until the BoS gets that, this part of Fairfax will continue its spiraling decline.

      A metro line needs to be added down Columbia Pike......period. Thanks to a bunch of Fairfax bigots and spineless local leaders 40 years ago we suffer the black hole in the conduit that treads this metro area together. There is actually a tunnel stub out at the pentagon for the a metro line to Columbia Pike according to a metro official. They built it in because they figured 50 years from now Fairfax would grow up when they realize they have been left behind in the DC's economic boom, and indeed we have. Crossing the Arlington border into Fairfax is analogous to being on the other side of the tracks; and I don't mean the good side. Fairfax needs a vision and needs to find an economic means to push forward as they did in Tysons if the County wants to remain a strong and competitive economic leader in this metropolitan area. You cannot let the core of the apple rot and not expect it to malignantly rot out the rest of the apple. Its common sense 101!

    2. Common sense would dictate that a nice village plan like the 2007 SEQ plan would appeal to a developer today. 600 high end condo townhouses by Stanley Martin, the townhouses at Blair and Columbia Pike and Ellery Place should be an economic draw for a village concept. These homeowners have zero walkability to anything. Mason District planning puts everyone on the road, just adding to overall congestion, pollution and blight.

      And, ask yourself...why is the SEQ such a blight? Lack of code enforcement, thank you very much. Our supervisor doesn't care about us folks. It didn't need to become so decrepit.

    3. They wont build high end townhouse condos because Baileys has been redlined as a dump.

    4. There are high end condos on Columbia Pike. Stanley Martin is building them. We've got the economic demographics to attract the right development. Something is wrong with the process to attract the right developers.

  8. The only way that we can impact this situation is to stop blaming whomever and hold ourselves accountable for showing up to be heard at the meetings, as well as being willing to take further actions in any way possible to intervene. The governmental process requires that we do our footwork to get others involved. Some of the people here have, despite being busy and stretched in a million different directions, shown up to the meetings to be heard and reached out to us. I applaud them. As someone said above, you have to pick your battles. If you pick this one or have an opinion, please voice it at the hearings and/or support the groups that are voicing the opinions at the hearings. You may not believe the process works, but at least you will have told the right audience what you think. All these threads turn into, no matter the issue, is a useless back and forth with some funny tidbits.