Seven Corners, a growing population and commercial center in Fairfax, is both ridden with traffic congestion and lacking housing options. A new plan for the area is going to make it more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly, as well as more sustainable and inclusive.
Last Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed an amendment to the Seven Corners Community Business Center’s comprehensive plan that paves the way for three new residential “villages,” along with new public parks and plazas, a community center, and playing fields. There are also provisions for new and expanded schools.
Seven Corners is on Fairfax County’s list of aging residential/commercial centers, along with Springfield, Route 1, Baileys Crossroads, and Dunn Loring/Merrifield. This update to the plan comes after a three-years of community discussion, and it was pushed along by Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross.
In the near term, neighborhood residents will not see much change. But over the long term, Seven Corners’ redevelopment will mean better transit and environmental stewardship, along with a stronger sense of community.
Map of the area covered by the plan. The City of Falls Church is to the north, Arlington County to the East, and residential neighborhoods to the west and south. Image from Fairfax County.
Seven Corners will have more transportation options
A newly-proposed street network will help relieve the overloaded Seven Corners interchange, and eventually there will be better transit connections to places like Falls Church and Bailey’s Crossroads.
The combination of a proposed “spine road,” street grid, and “ring road” (similar to how Gilbert’s Corner in Loudoun works) will alleviate congestion on the arterials and at the main interchange.
The plan includes the proposed Route 7 transit corridor, which allows for dedicated right-of-way for either Bus Rapid Transit or a light rail system and which the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is currently studying.
Also, the plan adds a new central transit center and enhanced transit connections to the East Falls Church Metro Station along Roosevelt Boulevard.
The new complete streets plan will include four miles of new sidewalks and five miles of new bike lanes, including three protected bike routes. Both Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) and the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) have voiced strong support for the plan.
Unfortunately, the plan includes a stipulation that there won’t be a pedestrian connection from Shadeland Drive, a long cul-de-sac, to the new elementary school and adjacent commercial areas along the south side of Route 7. Such a connection would make a lot of sense when it comes to encouraging children to walk and bike to school.
The plan has the environment in mind
Seven Corners falls within two important watersheds: Cameron Run and Four Mile Run. Both have been negatively affected by past development and the rapid runoff of stormwater from parking lots and structures.
The plan will put more homes close to transit retail, and jobs, and a lot of the area it’s redeveloping is already paved over. Those factors will mean better stormwater management and less driving, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.
More specifically, the plan proposes the use of modern stormwater management measures and requires sites with more than 50% impervious surface to reduce stormwater runoff 25% below existing conditions. For sites with less than 50% impervious surface, meaning they are at least 50% green, undeveloped land, runoff from new development cannot be greater than existing conditions. The plan doesn’t call for further reductions, though.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) and Sierra Club’s Mount Vernon Group, which is Virginia’s largest chapter, have endorsed the plan but have also called for stronger stormwater management provisions.
Affordability is a key component
The plan calls for one-for-one replacement of affordable housing units in Williston Village (Sub-unit A), a 15% set-aside in Town Center (Sub-unit B), and a 12% set-aside in Leesburg Pike Village (Sub-unit C). Income thresholds for the units would range from up to 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) or $65,520 for a family of four in the lowest tier to up to 120% of AMI, or $131,040 for a family of four (AMI is $109,200 for a family of four) in the highest tier
CSG and Sierra Club’s Mount Vernon Group joined the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance (NVAHA) in recommending stronger affordable housing provisions.
In a letter to Fairfax’s Board of Supervisors, both CSG and the Sierra Club pushed for more attention to the needs of those at 60% AMI or below, which includes many current residents of “market rate” affordable housing in Seven Corners. The groups recommended the plan identify specific tools that can achieve the housing goals, including use of county funding, which could help affordable housing developers leverage tax credits and other financing sources to provide more housing at 60% AMI and below.
NVAHA also called on the county to address the needs of households at 60% AMI and below.
The plan itself will take time to be realized. Once it is implemented, Seven Corners will be more sustainable, inclusive, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly and vibrant.