|The Metroway BRT line would be a model for the West End Transitway along the Beauregard corridor. [Red Brick Town]|
Lots of redevelopment and transit projects are in the works – or at least under consideration – for the West End of Alexandria.
These projects will have a huge impact on the Lincolnia area of Fairfax County – and on the ongoing discussions about the possible creation of a commercial business district at the Little River Turnpike/Beauregard Street intersection by the Lincolnia Planning District Study Task Force.
Planning staff from the City of Alexandria briefed the task force April 18 about those plans, including the redevelopment of Landmark Mall and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system for Beauregard Street.
West End Transitway
A bus rapid transit (BRT) system, known as the West End Transitway, is proposed for a 5.3-mile stretch along the Beauregard Corridor between the Van Dorn Metro station and the Pentagon, said Allan Fye, acting division chief, Transit Services,
BRT differs from regular bus lines in several ways: It would be more frequent and reliable. There would be full stations with real-time information about when the next bus will arrive, shelter with seating, off-board fare collection, and near-level boarding (so passengers won’t have to climb steps). Signal improvements along the corridor would give priority to buses and be coordinated to improve general traffic flow.
The West End Transitway would operate in dedicated lanes in some areas where feasible and in mixed traffic in other sections. Key stops would be at Landmark Mall, the Mark Center, Southern Towers, the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, and the Shirlington Transit Center.
The project would also include 2.3 miles of sidewalk improvements, bikeways, and pedestrian improvements and traffic improvements at 18 intersections.
An environmental assessment was submitted to the federal government in March, Fye said. Design work will begin next month. Construction could take place in 2019-20 and the BRT line could be up and running in 2021. However, a lot of pieces have to fall into place before that happens.
Funding would come from a mix of sources, including the federal Small Starts program, state Smart Scale program, regional funds, local funds, and express lane toll revenue.
Once the West End Transitway is up and running, it is expected to cut 18 minutes from the current trip, and people who switch from cars to the BRT would save $1,300 a year.
Currently, the route is not served by a single bus line. Bus riders have to transfer twice during rush hour and three times during non-rush hours.
The Beauregard BRT would be the third BRT system in Alexandria. The Metroway BRT line on the Route 1 corridor is already up and running. The King Street BRT is expected to start construction in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is considering a BRT line along Route 7 between the Mark Center and Tysons Corner.
There have been discussions with Fairfax County officials about extending the BRT line further south into Fairfax County after it’s up and running, Fye said.
In 2013, the City of Alexandria approved a proposal by the Howard Hughes Co. to replace the central part of Landmark Mall with a mixed-use development, but that plan is being updated, said Maya Contreras, a planner with the City of Alexandria. At that time, Macy’s and Sears were under separate ownership. A revised plan calling for more density and an outdoor movie screen was approved in 2015.
In January, Howard Hughes acquired Macy’s. It now plans to incorporate that property into its redevelopment plan. Macy’s closed earlier this year, as did the rest of the mall, except for Sears.
Sears has been struggling financially and has closed many stores. Contreras expects Howard Hughes will buy the Sears property at Landmark and submit a revised plan to the city. There would then be more public hearings and another transportation study.
Beauregard Small Area Plan
The Beauregard Small Area Plan, approved in 2012, envisions a series of seven distinct neighbors with a mix of uses, diverse housing options, and integrated transit along the Beauregard corridor, said Radhika Mohan
The plan covers 400 acres and calls for over 7 million square feet of residential uses, 1.7 million square feet of office space, 500,000 square feet of retail, 45 acres of new public parks, 800 units of dedicated affordable housing, a town center on the site of the shopping center, a dedicated transitway, a fire station, and athletic field.
JBG, the largest landowner in the corridor, was the first developer to proposed a new project, but that plan was later withdrawn after JBG merged with Vornado. Now JBG is trying to sell that property.
Meanwhile, the City of Alexandria is considering converting an office building on Rayburn Street to an elementary school. The city plans to move ahead with the transitway whether the Beauregard corridor is developed or not.
Farther down Beauregard, outside the plan boundary, a mixed-use development is going up at the King Street intersection, Contreras said. A mixed-use office building with 350 multifamily units, including 74 affordable units, and a Harris Teeter grocery store will go up on the site of a former hospital and a small retail center that housed one of the first Five Guys burger restaurants.
Eisenhower West Small Area Plan
The Eisenhower West Small Area Plan, adopted in 2015, calls for redevelopment along Eisenhower Avenue, with major mixed-use development around the Van Dorn Metro station, a new grid of walkable streets, a multimodal bridge over Eisenhower at an underdetermined location, new pedestrian bridges, new bike trails, and new parks.
The goals, Mohan said, are to transform the area from a suburban to an urbanized environment and ensure adequate transportation networks. It’s a long-range plan that could take decades to fully implement.