The Eden Center, one part of the Seven Corners area. Photo by dewitahs on Flickr.
Residents and business owners at Seven Corners want to make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, provide better transit or otherwise alleviate the traffic congestion, and preserve the diverse population and affordable housing.
Those were common themes from more than 100 Seven Corners residents and business owners at a May 21 session organized by the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR).
The “visioning exercise,” which called for participants to meet in small groups to list what they perceive as the area’s strengths and challenges and their vision for the future, is the first step in a county process to develop a framework for guiding redevelopment.
Among the assets cited by residents were:
- The diverse population of Seven Corners, including diversity of cultures, ages, and incomes
- Plenty of affordable housing
- The history of the area, including events from the Civil War and the first shopping center in Northern Virginia
- The proximity to Washington, DC
- A variety of shopping and dining options
- Stable, established neighborhoods nearby
Challenges that need to be addressed:
- Route 50 and Route 7 are major barriers and make it extremely difficult to walk through the area
- Too much litter and too many illegal signs
- There is no chamber of commerce or other organization of business owners
- The schools are overcrowded and need renovation
- The larger Seven Corners area is divided among different jurisdictions—Arlington and the City of Falls Church, as well as Fairfax County
The map of Seven Corners illustrates the lack of connectivity. Photo by the author of a display board presented at the meeting.
Just about everybody cited the traffic congestion as a huge challenge. The ideas that emerged for addressing it included improving the synchronization of traffic lights, totally redesigning the Route 50/Route 7 intersection, and providing an express bus to DC.
Other ideas mentioned for improving Seven Corners, some of them long-term:
- Improve the streetscapes
- Provide more community gathering places, such as parks, outdoor cafes, and farmers’ markets
- Create a public/private partnership to spur revitalization
- Add an escalator to connect the two levels of the Seven Corners Shopping Center
- Provide streetcars to connect Seven Corners to the East Falls Church Metro station and other centers, such as Tysons and Alexandria
- Get rid of the large parking lots and create a central plaza
- Attract more young professionals, while also retaining a diverse mix of cultures, ages, and incomes
- Add amenities, such as bike trails, parks, soccer fields, a movie theater, more trees, open space, and public art
- Build mixed-use developments combining housing and retail
Binh Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce for the Greater Washington, DC area, said many of the Eden Center business owners had been thinking of leaving the area due to the declining economy and civil rights issues—even though some 70,000 people come to that shopping center every weekend.
But the possibility of revitalizing Seven Corners is a hopeful sign. “We want to be a part of this great community,” he said, adding that Vietnamese businesses are interested in contributing to the development of a new community center.
Alejandria Caballero of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services reported on the concerns of some of the apartment residents. They want more parks, more police patrols to make the streets safer for evening walks, more family-friendly restaurants, and a more accessible health clinic. They said the Willston Multicultural Center needs to be renovated and the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 needs to be cleaned up.
The biggest problem is traffic congestion, said Iqbal Khaiy, who also mentioned the lack of walkability, the overcrowded schools, and the need to create “a sense of place.” She said it’s important to “retain the character and diversity of Seven Corners and give it a facelift.”
Jeff Longo said that even though he lives and works in Seven Corners, he can’t walk to work because it’s impossible to cross the street. The benefits of the area include convenience, diversity, variety of restaurants, and proximity to Arlington and DC, but there is “too much concrete and not enough green.”
Debbie Smith called for “smart development that doesn’t strain natural resources.” And several people mentioned the need to retain the unique character of Seven Corners and not copy Ballston or Tysons Corner.
The OCR will prepare a summary of the comments to share at the next workshop, which will be held June 18, 7 pm at the same location, 6245 Leesburg Pike.
Meanwhile, a major clean-up effort to get rid of the litter and illegal signs, is tentatively scheduled for June 23.
Cross-posted at Annandale VA.