“We’re excited about what is happening on the Route 1 Corridor.”
That was Steve Bannister of Capital Investment Advisors this morning, the first of three speakers at the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation’s “Vibrant Streets Summit.”
The two-hour event took place at the Hampton Inn & Suites at 5821 Richmond Highway, located along the northern gateway to the “Richmond Highway Corridor,” a seven-mile stretch leading to Fort Belvoir that is undergoing re-development and revitalization (six commercial districts with 18 current projects).
Speaking for what I hope is a majority of residents in this area south of Alexandria, let me say, “Steve, we’re excited too.”
A mix of residents, planners, architects, retail owners, and real estate reps, about 40 in all, attended the meeting. SFDC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the redevelopment and revitalization of Route 1, hosted the event, the latest in a series of informative meetings.
Bannister discussed the re-development of the small, boot-shaped parcel that lies south of the Rt. 1 and N. Kings Highway intersection. Some know this set of small retail as the Fast Eddie’s site.
“The Grande at Huntington” (16-minute walk from the Metro) will rise to five floors here with 275 rental units and some small retail. Bannister talked about the challenges in planning and designing the project, including the small footprint, the planned realignment of N. Kings Highway and lease termination dates. Good political leadership smoothed the process. Ground could be broke in 2015.
Next up was John Tschiderer, Vice President of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust. He discussed Mount Vernon Plaza, a retail center project finished several years ago. The lack of density was a challenge there.
In terms of infill development, Tschiderer held up “The Village at Shirlington,” as a shining success story that transformed that underutilized spot in Arlington into a vibrant mix of restaurants, residential, grocery, library and theater.
With a snappy blend of wit and wisdom, Heather Arnold of the design firm “Streetsense” held court on what it takes to wisely revitalize an area. When she talked about the myth - “You can never have too much retail,” I sensed a mental gasp by the merchants in the audience.
Her overall point, however, was to follow the proven approach her presentation laid out.
Exciting things are indeed happening along Route 1 (Did you hear we’re getting a Peet’s Coffee and Tea??). Today’s summit marked a noticeable turning point in an on-going process that is bringing more and more urban options in a historically suburban-only part of the Washington region. It’s especially true for those of us who remember a time not that long ago when "eating out" meant a meal you cooked yourself and ate in the back yard.
We welcome the smart growth approach, look forward to more of it, and ask our politicians and leaders to continue to do their part to make the Route 1 Corridor more and more, well -- vibrant!