Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

It was standing room only early Friday morning when the Urban Land Institute 5-Day Advisory Panel (ULI) presented the results of its intensive review of the opportunities for revitalization and redevelopment in the Bailey’s Crossroads area. The long-awaited consultant study was commissioned by Fairfax County to develop a comprehensive strategy to support a revitalized Bailey’s Crossroads area.

ULI is the nation’s premiere think tank on land use issues. The panel members included architects, designers, economists, and transportation experts from such diverse areas as Los Angeles, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. They spent many hours interviewing community members and business owners, did on-the-ground tours of the area, and caught the flavor of our diverse community at local ethnic restaurants. On the fifth day, panel members provided their thoughts and recommendations.

First of all, the ULI panel agreed that Bailey’s Crossroads has great potential to become a premiere urban center in the next two decades. The road network is in place, with a good bus system, which is planned to be augmented by the Columbia Pike Street-car Project, also known as Pike Transit. The economic vibrancy of the area is likely to be sustained, and the housing stock, while aging, provides a wide choice of living opportunities, from high-rise and garden style apartments along the main thoroughfares to single family detached houses on quiet cul-de-sacs. The panel suggested several concepts for consideration; some would require significant changes, while others would maintain much of what we see today. The Neighborhood Boulevard segment would keep much of the housing that already accesses Leesburg Pike. Workforce and affordable housing in this area is a plus for the community, the ULI panel said. Likewise, the Commercial Center, including Crossroads Center and the Bailey’s Crossroads Shopping Center, is a well-maintained and tenanted retail area. Skyline works very well, the panel noted, with its mixed uses of residential (apartments and condominiums), office, and retail. The Urban Square concept could redevelop the shopping centers along the north side of Leesburg Pike into mixed use, with a grid of tree-lined interior streets to replace the vast, asphalted parking lots of today. Urban parks also are part of the concept. A Village District concept was suggested for what has been called the “southeast quadrant,” a hodgepodge of smaller parcels and aging businesses along Columbia Pike. These parcels were the subject of a community planning charrette earlier this year, and a Comprehensive Plan nomination was approved in September.

The ULI panel chairman cautioned that redevelopment might take a long time and require a lot of public and private investment, but he also noted that, in ULI’s opinion, there isn’t a better time for Bailey’s Crossroads to move forward.

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