The small cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, along with the towns of Vienna and Herndon, are focused on walkable, appropriately-scaled, mixed-use redevelopment, enhancing social and economic activity.
The best way to handle future growth, manage traffic, and preserve remaining open space in Fairfax County is to focus new transit-oriented development in its aging commercial corridors and adding new transit links. Fairfax is supporting its revitalization efforts by evaluating an expanded transit network and development of a bicycle master plan. From the approval of the Vienna Metro station redevelopment, the town centers at Merrifield and Dunn Loring, and the Tysons Corner plan, to new revitalization plans for its other aging commercial corridors, Fairfax has the potential to set an example for jurisdictions throughout Virginia, the region and the nation.
The reinvention of Tysons Corner may be the most significant suburban transformation and development project on the East Coast. The Coalition for Smarter Growth was among the first to call for a new plan for Tysons Corner, which resulted in the appointment of a county task force. We used our Blueprint for a Better Region presentation and invited national experts to make presentations to inspire the reinvention of the “Edge City.” In 2008, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors endorsed the task force’s plan for redevelopment of Tysons, with a primary focus on compact mixed-use development around the four new Metro stations, an interconnected grid of streets, bicycle and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, transit circulators, and requirements for green-building, reduced stormwater runoff, and affordable and workforce housing. The approval of this plan was a watershed moment for smart growth in Fairfax. Today the county, CSG, developers, and our partners are focused on ensuring successful implementation of the plan.
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Revitalizing & Redeveloping Aging Commercial Corridors
Fairfax County has made revitalization of its aging commercial corridors a top priority. Representing less than 10 percent of the county’s land, these places with their acres of parking lots and one story buildings offer the best opportunity to absorb growth and to create the vibrant, walkable and transit-oriented communities in demand by both young workers and downsizing empty nesters. In addition to Tysons and Merrifield/Dunn-Loring, Fairfax County has created plans for Springfield, Annandale, Baileys Crossroads, and McLean. They are currently studying Seven Corners and will soon embark on a transit study for the Route 1/Richmond Highway corridor.
The Route 1/Richmond Highway area is a prime example of a Fairfax corridor that could benefit from smart growth revitalization. Presentations, coalition building, walking tours — we’ve done it all to inspire a new vision for Fairfax’s Richmond Highway corridor. On our walking tour through a Walmart parking lot to a damaged stream, we helped community members understand the win-win benefits of mixed-use redevelopment as a way to fund modern stormwater controls, restore streams, and create adjacent parks.
Now, thanks to a new transit study secured by state legislators and supported by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a new vision is possible. We’ve built a coalition of affordable housing, bicycle, pedestrian, conservation, and smart growth groups to ensure the study will link new transit with mixed-use development, inclusive housing, and safe places for walking and biking.
While a couple of mixed-use projects have advanced, there is no unified vision for the corridor. The proposed transit study offers the opportunity to create a new vision and plan linking transit, land use, preservation of affordable housing, new street networks, pedestrian/bicycle facilities, and stormwater management. Imagine a new boulevard with bus rapid transit or a streetcar/light rail, bike lanes and safe sidewalks, new apartments and condos, new public plazas, expanded stream valley parks, and new restaurants and services.
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Stormwater Management & Restoration
Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from development leads to erosion around local streams, flooding, and greatly increased water pollution in our streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, threatening our homes, wildlife, and our region’s economy. Many older parts of Fairfax and other suburbs and cities were built without modern, low-impact stormwater management. Acres of parking lots shed high volumes of water during rainstorms, gouging out streams and sending sediment and pollutants downstream. However, redevelopment of aging commercial corridors offers the opportunity to install better stormwater management while also reducing sprawl and the pressure to convert forests into development.
Working in partnership with the Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) and Fairfax County, the Coalition for Smarter Growth is showing how smart redevelopment can improve stormwater management. Highlights of this program include educational forums and walking tours in the Route 1 corridor, Tysons Corner, and Merrifield/Dunn Loring.