Seven Corners Gets an Urban Makeover
July 29, 2015
Since it was built in the 1960s, Seven Corners has been defined by a shopping center at the heart of a spaghetti-like intersection of roads. In its heyday, this shopping center was one of the largest and most modern in the D.C. region.
Today, the area is better known for its big-box retailers and auto-oriented stores, lack of sidewalks, bicycle facilities and green spaces and severe traffic congestion at its tangled intersection.
The new land use plan calls for three interconnected urban areas, a walkable grid of streets, bike lanes, parks and a reconfiguration of its famous intersection into a four-way intersection. The plan also upends the current suburban development pattern, typified by shopping centers and single-use establishments with separate surface parking lots, to a more urban development pattern. The plan envisions a denser mix of uses on shorter, walkable blocks of streets, garage parking and buildings closer to streets designed for multiple modes, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.
County planners say more housing will help to transform Seven Corners into a walkable environment where people can live, work, shop and play. The plan allows for up to 5,000 new dwellings. Notably, it calls for a one-to-one replacement of 589 affordable units at 60 percent or less of the area median income at the Seven Corners Apartments and the East Falls Church Apartments, as well as the creation of new affordable housing with other redevelopment.
While the area to be reshaped covers about 218 acres, it concentrates future growth into three nodes closest to the Seven Corners intersection. Together they account for seven million square feet of the plan’s 9.8 million total for new development.
Seven Corner’s future urban core will be located where the shopping center sits today. This area will become a town center with the most development and tallest buildings, rising up to 12 stories near the Arlington Boulevard and Leesburg Pike crossing. This town center is planned for up to 3.3 million square feet in new mixed used development, with two-thirds to be housing. New restaurants, shops, offices and apartments are organized around a street grid and a series of plazas. Of these, a large-scale one-acre plaza will offer a main public gathering spot for the Seven Corners community.
To the north of the town center, the plan envisions an urban village center. Sandwiched between Arlington and Wilson Boulevards, this area is currently home to the Williston Multicultural Center, a shopping center and two apartment buildings. This area will be redeveloped around a walkable, lively, main street with ground-floor retail, outdoor dining and an urban plaza.
The multicultural center is planned to be redeveloped for educational, government, cultural or human services. The county and public schools have agreed that they will locate a school at the site, unless the schools change their plans in the future. However, other community services may be co-located in the building, such as nonprofits, a multicultural center or other public uses.
A smaller, 539,000 square foot village center is conceived for the area south of the Leesburg Pike, which is currently developed with a Sears, two office buildings and a parking deck. Leesburg Pike Village will be organized around a main street. Up to six story buildings will face Leesburg Pike while building heights will taper down further away. Townhomes that are a maximum of three stories are planned in the area next to the Ravenwood, Ravenwood Park and Sleepy Hollow Manor neighborhoods. Mixed-use residential buildings with ground floor retail and office uses, and an enhanced pedestrian realm for cafes and outdoor seating and public gathering areas are planned to be oriented to Leesburg Pike and a new activated main street.
Like a necklace, the three new urban areas will be tied together by a new “spine” road that will run from Wilson Boulevard to Leesburg Pike, over Route 50. This road also will connect pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to the future parks and green spaces spread across the town and village centers.
In addition to the spine road, Fairfax’s blueprint lays out new local streets. Not only will this grid of streets make Seven Corners more walkable, but also it will help provide more options for drivers to get around. This grid will be complemented by more than four miles in new sidewalks and five miles of new bike lanes on local streets and main roads, like Route 50.
Two other major transportation changes are conceived. The Seven Corners intersection will be converted into a regular, four-way intersection that connects Leesburg Pike, Wilson Boulevard and Sleepy Hollow Road. A new, partial ring road will loop around this intersection, offering another way to travel more easily into and out of Seven Corners. New pedestrian and bicycle facilities will be incorporated into these two projects.
Fairfax County created its new plan for Seven Corners based on extensive community input. The plan was drafted by a 16-member Land Use and Transportation Task Force and an 11 member Opportunity Area C Special Working Group that held over 85community meetings, along with surveys and other means for public input and feedback.
The county developed the plan to help revitalize Seven Corners, focus future growth in its activity centers, and create a more walkable and economically successful community. High-density, mixed-use or transit oriented developments create vibrant communities where people can live, work, learn, and play. And, this is a key strategy in the county’s Economic Success Plan.