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Strip Mall's Neighbors Ponder Its Future

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 The Penn-Daw Shopping Center is the the Lee District of Fairfax County. 
Michael Pope
 The Penn-Daw Shopping Center is the the Lee District of Fairfax County. 

 

Neighbors in the Lee District of Fairfax County are working with developers and county officials to determine the future of Penn-Daw, a run-down strip mall near King's Crossing.

Ever since the Shopper's Food Warehouse closed in April, the Penn-Daw shopping center on King's Highway in Alexandria hasn't been the same. Local community leader Martin Tillett says now is the time to start considering mixed use development at the center, which is south of the Huntington Avenue Metro station.

"Just think about where we are. We're less than a mile from a Metro stop. You go anywhere else in the Washington metropolitan region and you're this close to a Metro stop, you see a lot of development going on," he says. "For some reason, we're missing the ball down here."

Tillett says the days of the strip mall are over. But Jennifer Herb, the manager of the Books-A-Million store in the shopping center, disagrees.

"I actually prefer them," she says. "Where else can you get a book and get your nails done?"

Part of the debate over Penn-Daw reflects what happened across the street at King's Crossing, where neighbors held two years of meetings to push for a mixed-use development but ended up with a Wal-Mart. 

The county was unable to ask the developer for transportation improvements, so the highway is now clogged with traffic. Southeast Fairfax County president Kyle Talente says part of the problem is the adversarial nature of the development process.

"It's usually the developer takes a position on this hill over here and the community takes a position on this hill over here and we fight," he says. 

Hoping to avoid that scenario, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay has convened a task force to brainstorm for the future of Penn-Daw, which takes its name from an old cottage motel that was once located at the site. Instead of living with what the developer wants or planning in a vacuum, the county has hired a consultant to figure out what kind of development the economy can support.

Michael Pope also reports for Northern Virginia's Connection Newspapers.

 


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