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With Tysons Corner plan in place, Fairfax County to build elsewhere

Way back when: Peter Scott (left) and Yusuf Bangura (right) assemble a model of the impending Metrorail right of way through the Tysons Corner area of Fairfax County in 2006. (Photo: Brig Cabe/Washington Examiner)

Fairfax County officials want to avoid a redevelopment letdown by shifting focus to the Route 1 corridor now that their massive plan for Tysons Corner is in place.

"All of our energy has been going to Tysons," said County Supervisor Penny Gross, D-Mason. "Some other areas of the county haven't had the level of activity that we'd like to see."

So now, in an attempt to cure their self-dubbed "Tysons fatigue," the county's Board of Supervisors has vowed to rebuild elsewhere.

That construction is headed toward Route 1 -- which runs in the county from the Capital Beltway in Springfield south to Lorton -- in an area where officials say massive road improvements and dozens of mixed-use buildings and restaurants are needed to revitalize the aging area.

Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee, said the area's redevelopment was a "golden opportunity" to study Route 1 now that developers are showing interest in it, especially because the corridor's northern portion houses the Huntington Metro station.

"The demand for transit-oriented properties is higher than ever," McKay said. "Developers are starting to realize that redevelopment around rail is possible in other parts of the county."

County transportation officials are in the midst of a $55 million study to upgrade and widen roads, repair sidewalks and renovate bus stops in the corridor, and the board is approving plans for development along Route 1 at a rapid pace not seen in years, McKay said.

Staffers at the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., a nonprofit that promotes redevelopment, are tracking 17 proposals in the area. Each project shows that developers "are paying a little bit more attention" to the corridor, said David Ben, the organization's director of marketing and communications.

But the county's plans are admittedly going to be tough to complete. Many neighborhoods are built on the edge of Route 1, and redevelopment there could be "like fitting a square into a circle," McKay said.

In addition to possibly pushing into residential neighborhoods, the road's widening could lead to the demolition of the Woodlawn Stables, a 56-stall barn for horse enthusiasts near Fort Belvoir. Residents in the area have formed a grassroots campaign to save the facility.

"We are devastated with the decision to choose a road design that forever changes the landscape of Woodlawn," campaign member Shelley Castle said. "We believe the community has made it exceedingly clear that it would like to see the meadows and pastures of Woodlawn to remain a symbol of its equestrian heritage that has served its neighbors for a century."

Still, many who frequent the area say they're pleased to see it growing.

"[We're hoping] to see the area become more of an attraction rather than somewhere people just pass through," Ben said. "It's an exciting time."