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Revitalization Resuscitates Springfield's Heart

Springfield of old is getting sandwiched out. With the revitalization of central Springfield coming from one side and the bioinformatics incubator gaining momentum from the other, change is inevitable.

Bob Gray, former executive director of the Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee (CSPARC), looks at revitalization steps already in the works. Although the time frame is two to 10 years, the expansion of Springfield Volkswagen and Kay Jennings Toyota — as well as the introduction of Town Place Suites, Bucca de Beppo, Marriott Suites and Trader Joe's — are steps in the right direction toward revitalization.

"We think there's been some progress," Gray said.

Skeeter Scheid, who took the helm as the chairman at CSPARC, works with Gray. A few more additions to the revitalization plan she noted were the Amherst Street Bridge — which was recently recognized for its appearance, improved bus shelters and the introduction of "way finding" signs. These are direction signs to navigate the changing landscape in central Springfield. The new Springfield logo is emblazoned on the signs.

"People don't realize the groundwork that goes into it, even the bus shelters," said Scheid. "There's going to be a lot more teamwork, more identity with the heart of Springfield."

The ribbon-cutting at the bioinformatics incubator on Loisdale Road, on Friday, Jan. 24, recognized six businesses that got an early foothold in offices within another growing area of Springfield. That area, a half-mile south of Springfield Mall, will be complemented by the Springfield Metro station, offices and the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) medical campus. These additions, in proximity to the Inova Healthplex and residential housing, plant a seed for further economic development.

"It positions Springfield for long-term success," said Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee). Kauffman's office has been involved with both projects with rezoning efforts around the Metro as well as cleaning up central Springfield.

"INCUBATOR" is not a term commonly connected with municipal efforts. The hope is, when bioinformatics businesses couple efforts with the technology and manpower, a by-product of the medical center, it will lead to more businesses and supporting services in Springfield. Not only will the Springfield Hilton gain by attracting overnight customers, but so will Kinko's of Springfield Plaza by providing materials for the offices, for example. Kinko's is in the central Springfield area covered by CSPARC, so it is just one example of the two forces crossing over.

Robert Skunda, president of the Virginia Bio-Technology Research Park in Richmond, has been through the process with his facility.

"Biotechnology and life-science industries like to cluster," Skunda said. "We already have our eighth building under construction. It is having an impact on the revitalization of the adjoining community."

Although the presence of the first six companies is just a start, Jerry Gordon, president and chief executive officer of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, looked at the evolution with a "self-contained" philosophy.

"By the end of the decade, you will be able to get two- and four-year degrees, build a company, spin it off and get employees back into lifelong learning," he said. "You could live your entire life here."

William Gary is the vice president of Workforce Development at NVCC. The campus construction is on schedule to open in August 2003.

"We see it as a collaborative effort. There are going to be opportunities to join the organization. We're going to double our students in the medical field," he said.

Gray looks at both business developments.

"That (bioinformatics incubator) is outside of the central revitalization area," he said. "it will help the whole area, though," he said.