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A View From The 'Bus'

Citizens treated to visual tour of district at town meeting.

All aboard for a Virtual Bus Tour of the Mount Vernon District as directed by Supervisor Gerald "Gerry" Hyland during his 17th Annual Town Meeting.

"Passengers" were treated to views of both accomplishments and plans — with running commentary from tour director Hyland, seated upon his high stool attired in a new windbreaker and traditional black cap.

Highlights of the 2004 tour included:

*An artist's rendering of a revamped Hampton Inn on Route 1 with its new all suites seven story tower addition. It will replace the present diner now on that property.

*Drivers on Richmond Highway will soon have block designations to aid them in locating given addresses.

*Across from Huntington Metro Station is the site of 40 new townhomes. However, the 400 unit apartment complex is on hold due to financing problems, according to Hyland.

*A new 650 unit residential development, known as the Pavilions at Metro, is to begin in 2004. It will include a 12 acre park.

*A contract has been signed for the development of King's Crossing. But the exact nature of that development has not been settled. "We'd like a mixed use of residential, commercial, and retail," Hyland said. He did speculate that a 135,000 square foot Wegman's combination market/multi-purpose store might be an anchor property. The design concept for the highway at that location is still being debated.

*New commercial ventures along the Route 1 corridor in the past 12 months include Target, Gold's Gym, a Super Safeway, Provident Bank, and, of course, Krispy Kreme.

*Other residential development noted on the tour encompassed, "The old Dairy Queen property which will be redone as residential. Groveton Corporate Center is a possible residential site instead of the planned office development." Other planned residential parcels include: Skyview Park as a combination townhouse and single family mix; Talbott Farm property to be single family homes; a development at Central Avenue by Centrex Homes; and a 350 units assemblage at Buckman Road. Hyland noted, "This will give us the opportunity to improve the Buckman Road/Route 1 intersection."

*On the subject of traffic, Hyland explained the parking situation at the Mount Vernon Estate had been settled by expanding the existing sites and adding parking behind the wall along Route 235. He announced, "There will be no Mount Vernon bypass." There is still no solution to creating a turning lane into the new post office on Route 1, he noted.

*Two major additions to the area which gained special attention on the tour were the proposed new Museum of The U.S. Army and the Lorton Station Town Center. The actual site of the museum is "still up in the air," Hyland admitted. He then added, "I think it will be across from the Main Gate on the soccer fields." He also condemned a site at the intersection of Telegraph Road and Route 1 by stating, "I think it stinks." Noting that projected visitations to the museum top one million per year, Hyland also see this as a "opportunity to bring rail transportation to the area." He praised the anticipated Lorton Station Town Center as an ideal land use development as being "all in sight of the VRE rail system." As planned it will include residential and retail uses.

*Tying into the new Army Museum, Hyland pointed out the IMP building had been sold at auction and there was "still hope to have a hotel/conference center at this site."

*Under education, the tour focused on the new South County High School in the Lorton area which came about as a result of the former Lorton Prison land acquisition and the Islamic Saudi Academy on Route 1. In the case of the former, Hyland emphasized, "This is being built by the private sector and is three years ahead of schedule. It is also saving the taxpayers $24.5 million." As for the Academy, Hyland announced the lease has been extended to 2007. "After that they plan to move to Loudoun County. It's not too early for us to begin thinking about a future use for that site."

AS HE BROUGHT his mythical bus back to its home terminal, Hyland returned to a favorite subject — the future of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. Referencing the population expansion in the entire Lorton area, he noted, "One of the issues with the hospital has to do with the growth in Lorton. We have 2,000 additional residential units coming into the pipeline. It will have to be addressed."