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Fairfax County Struggles Between Urban And Suburban Development

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Should Fairfax County develop as a suburban getaway, or follow the more urban path chosen by Ballston and Rosslyn?
William F. Yurasko (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfyurasko/3711698304/)
Should Fairfax County develop as a suburban getaway, or follow the more urban path chosen by Ballston and Rosslyn?

In Virginia, one part of Fairfax County is experiencing a personality crisis.

This summer, a new Costco will open in southeast Fairfax County along the Richmond Highway corridor. The new big-box retailer will have a giant parking lot and fit the same pattern as suburban and exurban development motorists see as they navigate Loudoun County. At the same time, about a mile away, a new mixed-use urban development called Beacon of Groveton is opening its doors—a development similar to something people might see in Ballston or Rosslyn.

Edythe Frankel Kelleher, the executive director of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, says the suburban model is still an important part of Fairfax County. "Those folks still need to get in their cars and drive places. And when they get in their cars, they want to go to a Costco. They want to have that big, one-stop shopping."

This week, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will select a consultant to conduct a long awaited study of the corridor  one that will make an important determination about the preferred mode of transportation along Route One. Officials will be left to decide if it should be bus-rapid transit, light rail or Metro.

"One of the reasons why VDOT hasn't funded improvements on Route One over these years is because there's uncertainty as to what exactly the right-of-way need is going to be because there's uncertainty as to what our investment in transit is going to be," says Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. He hopes the study will end any talk of expanding Metro along the corridor, but isn't holding his breath.

"I'm sure that decades ago in Tysons Corner they felt it was the same thing when it was all a bunch of farms," says Kahan Dhillon, a businessman in Mount Vernon. He supports expanding Metro along the corridor. "The corridor has one of the highest traffic counts of any road of its kind in the county, and there's no reason why a place like that should not be modernized and enhanced and revitalized."

For now, this stretch of road will feature a blend of urban and suburban development, at least until the study creates a sense of expectations for developers.

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