Construction vehicles trundle through the dirt along Beacon Hill, the highest point of Fairfax County. For many years, this hill was home to an aircraft beacon that helped pilots navigate up and down the East Coast. But next month, this area will look very different.
"It's a beacon of development," says David Ben, a spokesman for the Southeast Fairfax County Development Corporation. This project represents a sea change for Richmond Highway (U.S. Route 1) as the first mixed-use urban development along a road now known for big box stores and vast parking lots.
"We've got developers pounding down our doors saying, 'We're willing to go once we see how this project does,'" Ben says. "And I think that you are going to see in the next year or two several new projects that are more similar to this."
Local businessman Kahan Dhillon is excited about the project because development in this part of Fairfax County has been sluggish for far too long, he says.
"The pace at which development and revitalization have taken place along this corridor has lagged behind other similar places, whether it be Tysons, whether it be Merrifield, whether it be Springfield as well," Dhillon says.
The Beacon of Groveton, made up of almost 300 luxury apartments and ground-level stores, is the first rental property that's come to Richmond Highway in the past decade.
Virginia Del. Scott Surovell (D), who represents this part of Fairfax County, has been pushing for an extension into the area of Metro's Yellow line for years. The Huntington station was built with the expectation that the rail line would eventually expand to the south, according to Surovell.
Even though the population density does not yet exist to finance a new Metro line, Surovell says, developments such as the one now atop Beacon Hill are exactly what's needed to create the environment for an expanded Yellow line along Richmond Highway
"It's not a crazy pipe dream," he says. "Commercial real-estate one mile from here leases for $5 more per square foot than it does in Tysons Corner."
"It's not a crazy pipe dream," he says. "Commercial real estate one mile from here ... leases for $5 more per square foot than it does in Tysons Corner."
Until then, the Beacon will stand alone as a first-of-its-kind urban construction along suburban Richmond Highway.
Michael Pope is also a reporter with the Connection Newspapers who provides special coverage of Northern Virginia for WAMU 88.5. His story for the Connection can be found at ArlingtonConnection.com