Drawing of the Huntington Club redevelopment. Image by Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation used with permission.

In 2015, Fairfax County tentatively backed a plan that would drastically overhaul the Huntington Club condos next to the Huntington Metro station. Huntington Club, a local condo association, voted to dissolve itself last year to make way for the development. Last week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an amendment to its comprehensive plan to allow higher density and floor area ratio, allowing the master developer to construct taller buildings and produce more homes.

According to the plan, the developer will tear down 364 condos and replace them with more than 1,500 condos and apartments, 65 townhomes, and retail and office space. The tallest buildings will top off at 200 feet and taper down to 55 feet.

This isn’t your typical redevelopment

In November last year, 87 percent of the Huntington Club condo association voted to dissolve themselves to make it easier to redevelop the land. It’s an unusual decision — the head of the condo association said it was the first time a condo community in Fairfax County had voted to tear down their own homes for redevelopment.

Huntington Club was originally built in 1967. When homeowners first thought about the future of their community, they had to decide whether to maintain their current buildings or go in a different direction. Being right next to a Metro station meant the Huntington Club land was valuable, and that there was a lot of opportunity for adding housing.

A view of the Huntington Club now. Image made with Google Maps.

Obviously, current homeowners stand to benefit monetarily from the redevelopment, but it’s still notable that they chose to look forward rather than preserve the past. The development won’t be complete for some time; construction will take at least 10 years. However if it goes forward as planned, it’ll show that redevelopment doesn’t have to displace current residents and can instead be used to benefit an entire neighborhood.

The Huntington Club's decision stands in interesting contrast to the region's many attempts to replace or rehab various public housing sites, like DC's New Communities Initiative. It has long been a goal of housing advocates to replace our most distressed public housing units in a way that benefits the current residents rather than displaces them from their homes. It will be interesting to follow the redevelopment of Huntington Club — a similar case of building replacement, but one where the current residents (as condo owners) have more economic power.

Good news for people who bike and take the train

This is an exciting development for Huntington for many reasons. Right now the area isn’t very pedestrian or cyclist-friendly. Adding more housing will provide the county with more incentive to improve the neighborhood for everyone — hopefully including more bike lanes and pedestrian amenities.

Huntington’s proximity to Old Town Alexandria, Amtrak, and the Beltway means it has a lot of potential to attract new residents from a variety of areas. This is particularly true for those who work in Old Town or at the National Science Foundation nearby in Eisenhower, or for people who need faster access to Maryland (Huntington is less than five miles from the Maryland border across the Wilson Bridge).

Of course, Metro is a huge factor. Huntington Club is right next to the Metro station, and despite diminished ridership over the last year across the system, it’s clear that people still want to live near transit. More development next to the station, especially mixed-use development, will encourage new residents to take transit.

This development is a jumping-off point

There is a missing middle housing problem in the region that isn’t just confined to DC. Huntington isn’t a neighborhood of very large homes — historically, it’s been a working class neighborhood that has benefitted from being close to transit. The neighborhood is a prime location for more density. The development proposed for Huntington Club may help solve the missing middle problem while helping give Southeast Fairfax County some more life.

Last year, Fairfax County broke ground on a new levee, which will help keep houses from flooding during heavy rain. This project is about 50 percent complete and when finished, will also provide running trails and give neighborhood residents a new way to get to the Metro or down Huntington Avenue.

Members of the Huntington Community Association pick up trash along Huntington Avenue. Image by Adam licensed under Creative Commons.

Of course, there have been concerns that this will add too many residents, too much congestion, and more noise. However, I think this is misleading.

When I go running in Huntington on weekends, there are very few cars coming down the street — which would be fine, except I don’t see many pedestrians either. Right now, there’s really no place to go in Huntington. With this development and the upcoming one on Route 1, Huntington may become a place that new residents want to invest in, rather than just treat like a waypoint.

When new development does come it will inevitably bring more traffic and more people, but there will also be better sidewalks and a more walkable neighborhood. Hopefully there will even be a place to grab a cup of coffee without going into Old Town and more options for walking to get groceries. Perhaps then people will come to Huntington for reasons other than to take the Metro.