We Are Not A Tysons Wannabe
I grew up on the Route One corridor—along with my parents and grandparents. We have all been proud to call Route One home. So—as a third generation Route One neighbor, it upsets me personally when people badmouth my home or compare it to Tysons Corner.
First, let me say that neither the constituents I hear from nor I want to see the corridor recast as a Tysons wannabe with a sea of generic high rises. Route One has its own history and its own special flavor with many small, vibrant businesses and closely knit residential communities—the type of character absent from many other places. There’s a community spirit here that I wouldn’t trade for anything else.
Does Route One have serious needs and serious challenges? Absolutely it does and I’d be the first to say it has benefited from many of the resources that Fairfax County has directed its way.
Route One is one of the County’s revitalization areas. Revitalization is one of those things that builds incrementally while we glare at our calendars and wonder why it takes so darn long. So why can’t the process move faster? Most revitalization areas—and Route One is no exception—have multiple property owners with sites that are expensive and hard to redevelop. The land parcels may be small, have difficult frontage, or present a host of other challenges. The number of owners involved can make it difficult to consolidate enough properties to support a large town center or mixed use development.
While the County uses all the tools it has to facilitate certain types of development, the private sector will make its decisions based on the economics of the situation. So as much as we might like to see a Nordstrom’s instead of a Walmart, we don’t have the legal right to tell a land owner to whom he or she has to lease the property.
The public sector—namely the state—is responsible for infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks. In this area, the state has failed miserably. Since taking office and from my position as chair of the Fairfax County Board’s Transportation Committee I’ve worked with our federal and state officials to try to get funding for critical transportation improvements. But with state transportation dollars as elusive as unicorns, I’m not holding my breath to see transit or significant Route One widening any day soon. With BRAC and its increased traffic only short months away, I’m working to find creative ways to leverage the County’s transportation dollars and access to federal grants. We’ve been successful in this area—just look at two of the county's largest road improvement projects: the extension of the Fairfax County Parkway to Route One and the widening and extension of Mulligan Road, also to Route One. County—not state—funding matched federal stimulus funding to pay for this work. These improvements are vital to revitalizing the Highway and will result in the best east/west connectivity we have ever had on Route One.
While bringing Metro to the Highway is certainly needed, realistically, we’re many years and many millions of dollars away. However, did you know that Route One is now the most heavily used transit corridor in the county? That’s because of the investment that Fairfax County has made in the REX and Connector bus lines.
So—don’t get caught up in false comparisons to other areas of the County. Look at the blighted buildings that have been replaced with modern, attractive ones as well as the revitalized shopping centers up and down the corridor like Hybla Valley and Beacon Mall. We still have work to do but acting like we haven’t come a long way is just not true or productive.
And remember that perception IS reality. We all need to be Route One ambassadors and speak well of our community. Community pride and word of mouth do attract good investment.
In This Issue of Supervisor McKay's Lee District Update: