Gray Line it’s not. But it transported 400-plus people last Saturday morning around Mount Vernon District on an informative sightseeing excursion of changes both planned and already in progress.
It was the 19th time at the wheel for Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland to take his constituents on a virtual bus ride as part of his Annual Town Meeting at Mount Vernon High School. It is their chance to see first-hand the myriad changes occurring throughout their home area.
Donning his black cap and a blue and white windbreaker, Hyland took his audience on a “tour” of various projects underway and on the drawing boards by way of a slide presentation. Sprinkled throughout the hour-long “tour” were Hylandized quips, puns and commentary.
Showing slides of such sights as Kings Crossing, the closed and deteriorating Value Inn, Beacon Mall, and himself wielding a sledge hammer in the tear-down of the building that once occupied the site of the new home of Del Ray Glass, Hyland said, “Since 1991 more than $46 million has been invested in rejuvenating the Richmond Highway corridor.”
He also announced a new project in his office to “capture all the history throughout the Mount Vernon District.” To highlight this effort, Hyland featured a display of one-half of the sign at the former “Dixie Pig” restaurant.
“The other have of the sign is in Florida. So you can’t accuse me of going whole hog,” he said.
Some of the focal points of the virtual bus tour:
v Shurgard Storage will replace the Wagonwheel Motel.
v Commerce Bank and Chili’s Restaurant will consume the plot now occupied by the boarded-up Value Inn.
v The Mount Vernon Square Safeway is finally scheduled to open April 7.
v The former Dunkin Donut site at the intersection of Boswell Avenue and Route 1 is to be home to a branch of PNC Bank.
v The IMP Building, just north of Old Mill Road on Route 1, is scheduled to be partially transformed into a conference center to support a Marriott Hotel scheduled to be built on the site along with two other office buildings.
v Three other Marriott properties are in the planning stages to be built on properties from Fort Belvoir to the Beltway.
v Lorton Town Center is scheduled to open this spring.
v A full service healthplex is in the planning stages by Inova Health System on a 14-acre site in the Lorton area to meet some of the health needs of an area Hyland described as “the fastest growing in Fairfax County.” It will also complement services at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.
v The 300,000 square feet National Museum of the U.S. Army is to open in June 2009. “Hopefully, it will be located near the Pence Gate entrance to Fort Belvoir,” Hyland said. It is a public/private endeavor between the Department of The Army and the Army Historical Foundation.
v The $85 million Visitor Orientation/Education Center at Mount Vernon Estate “will be like nothing we have in this entire area,” he said. Scheduled to open this fall, it is financed, as has everything at the Estate, entirely with private funds.
v A left turn lane will be created at the Route 1 post office to not only ease traffic congestion but also to make access and egress safer.
v The George Washington Recreation Center is scheduled to reopen in March after extensive renovations and repairs.
Upon pulling into the “terminal,” Hyland reminded his “passengers” that, “The most important way to control growth is through the comprehensive planning process. The citizens of Mount Vernon control what will happen.”
He urged that they to become involved and, particularly, to get to know what is happening in the Area Plan Review procedure. “I take my direction from you,” he said.