Fairfax County Embarks on a New Vision for Depressed Corridor
Fairfax County, Va., has given the go-ahead for a major makeover of the U.S. Route 1 corridor near Mt. Vernon. Known as Embark Richmond Highway, the land-use plan would revitalize a congested, economically run-down 7.5-mile corridor in Virginia’s most populous county with 18,000 new housing units and 8.5 million sq ft of non-residential development, including office towers and hotels.
The resulting development is expected to quadruple the area’s current population, to about 40,000 residents, with much of the residential growth concentrated around nine stations of a planned bus rapid transit line. A 3.1-mile, two-station extension of the existing Metrorail Yellow Line to Fort Belvoir is also included in the project scope, as well as a new street grid and improved corridor-wide access for pedestrians and cyclists.
Coinciding with other infrastructure improvements in the area already underway, including a state-funded road widening and a new $30 million flood control levee, the ambitious land-use plan would result in a major transformation of a corridor long dominated by strip malls and low-end suburban businesses. Six existing community business centers would be transformed into commercial settings with distinct characters and identities.
For example, the Pen Daw center, adjacent to the existing Huntington Metro station, would serve as the corridor’s northern gateway, with a combination of residential and business development in buildings up to 15 stories high along the highway. The Beacon/Groveton center, would become the corridor’s focal point, with the tallest high-rises reaching 22 stories, plus facilities for large community events.
To be carried out over the next ten years, the Embark plan envisions the corridor’s streets and buildings to be integrated with continuous park spaces called “livability spines,” which would act as alternative “main streets” to Richmond Highway and create destinations for shopping, recreation and outdoor gatherings.
Another concept, called “ecological spines” restores streams that have been diverted or underground tunnels over the years, and reincorporates them into the street design. These spines would double as recreation spaces and neighborhood connectors.