Springfield Ripe for Change

Springfield Ripe for Change

APR Nominations, possible renovations at Springfield Mall expected in 2006.

Springfield’s redevelopment will continue to be the biggest story in 2006, with high hopes for the newly sold Springfield Mall, ongoing revitalization of the downtown area and continued progress on the Mixing Bowl. Additionally, the area will be involved in the Area Plans Review (APR) process, which may change how parts of the region are developed according to Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan. A decision may be made regarding the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway, currently designed to be built in the Army Corps of Engineer’s Engineer Proving Ground, which has been delayed for environmental concerns. The West Springfield High School boundary study, which also involves Lee High School and Lake Braddock Secondary School, will be concluded in February with a decision to be made by the Fairfax County School Board after months of town meetings and two public hearings scheduled for the end of January.

<sh>APR Nominations

<bt>Every five years, residents and developers in Fairfax County have the opportunity to submit proposals for the Area Plans Review, a state-mandated review of the county's Comprehensive Plan which serves as a guideline for how land is zoned and can be developed. Last year, the APR process addressed the northern portion of the county, putting Springfield, Lorton, Fairfax Station and other portions in the southern half of Fairfax County in the spotlight in 2006.

The Mount Vernon District, of which Lorton is a part, has 37 nominations and the Lee District has 27 nominations, 10 of which concern parcels in or around Springfield. An additional seven nominations in the Springfield District have also been proposed.

In the Lee District, most of the nominations are centered around Beulah Street. Two of the proposals, submitted by Dowdy and Associates, would redevelop land at a higher rate of density.

In the first proposal, Dowdy and Associates, based on Backlick Road, seeks to turn nearly 160 acres into a mixed use, residential, office and open space development. As many as 1,200 multi-family condominiums and 220 townhouse units would be built on one-quarter of the property, with another 25 percent dedicated to retail use. An additional 25 percent of the property would be developed as office space, while 20 percent would be used for open space and the remaining 5 percent dedicated to public facility or government use. The property, a part of which is already zoned for residential use, is currently a landfill located on Loisdale Road between the Springfield Mall and the Hunter Motel.

The second proposal submitted by Dowdy and Associates would convert the current Hunter Motel property into a mixed use, retail and office space on almost 4.5 acres of land. The area is currently zoned for commercial use.

More information on all of the APR nominations across the southern portion of Fairfax County is available on the county's Web site, at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/apr.

<sh>Central Springfield Town Center

<bt>The downtown Springfield area is in the middle of an ongoing revitalization project, bringing in new businesses and construction to the heart of the community.

In late October, that Vornado Realty Trust had entered into an agreement to purchase the Springfield Mall for $36 million, with plans to remodel the mall itself and redevelop the 80 acres of land surrounding it.

Plans for a mixed use, residential and retail project from KSI Developers are expected to be finalized in 2006, as are proposals from Vornado for the renovation of the Springfield Mall.

Possible expansion of the Metro system in the future could potentially bring in more businesses, including retail and restaurants, to downtown Springfield.

<sh>BRAC Impacts

<bt>As many as 20,000 people will be relocating to Fort Belvoir as part of the federal government’s Base Relocation and Closure Commission’s changes of 2005, which means a big impact on the area in and around Fort Belvoir. Where people will live, where they will work, the condition of the infrastructure and any commuting will be under the microscope in 2006, as plans for the future come into focus. How much assistance Fairfax County will receive from the federal government to make improvements to roads, especially Route 1, if any, will continue to be a major concern as the year progresses.

<sh>Fairfax County Parkway

<bt>A long-planned project to complete the Fairfax County Parkway may be redesigned in 2006, as environmental tests conducted by the EPA have detected unsafe pollution levels in the ground at the former Engineer Proving Ground site.

A 1-acre portion of the site, known as M-26, has been declared unsafe for construction teams to work on in order to complete the project. Because the land used to be owned by the Army, it is the Army’s responsibility to complete the clean-up, but neither the Army nor the county seems to agree on a timeline for when that will be completed to an extent that the project can be started.

To expedite the completion of the project, the county may consider remapping the two-mile stretch of the Fairfax County Parkway, which currently combines with the Franconia Springfield Parkway before Rolling Road and ends on Route 1.

Two ramps would be built on the area known as M-26, a 1-acre portion of the 800-acre EPG site. The EPA found high levels of petroleum in the soil and ground water there during testing last spring and said the site must meet its standards before construction could begin. According to Army estimates, it could take up to 900 days for the clean-up to be completed. While Army officials from Fort Belvoir have said the clean-up should not delay the work on the Parkway, Fairfax County officials have discussed the possibility of re-routing the Parkway in order to avoid the site altogether.

<sh>Springfield Interchange

<bt>With a little under two years left on the Mixing Bowl project, 2006 is set to be a banner year for the Springfield Interchange, which connects Interstates 95, 495 and 395 in central Springfield. Many of the ramps that have been under construction in the final two phases of the project are set to open this year, which will make it even easier for local commuters and long distance drivers to make it to their destinations in Washington and along the east coast. The total cost of the project is estimated to be over $676 million, and the entire project should be completed by the end of 2007.

<sh>Burke Centre Library

<bt>Just around the corner from where a new VRE garage is planned will be the Burke Centre Library, at Freds Oak Road and Roberts Parkway. Ten years after the recession of the early 1990s closed down the old Burke Library, a $52.5 million bond referendum in 2004 opened the way for a new one in Burke Centre.

The estimated bid date for the library is July 2006. The progress of the project has been slowed down somewhat by budget challenges, said Carey Needham of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, and as construction costs have risen, the size and scale of the design have shrunk somewhat.

Still, the Burke Centre Library will be about 17,000 square feet in size, with book stacks, a children's area, an electronic media center and rooms for meetings and conferences, as well as an open-seating area for reading. It will also have a drive-through book window where patrons can return books, pick up items on hold and pay library fines.

The Burke Centre Library will serve patrons from the Clifton, Fairfax Station, Fairfax and Burke areas. The two closest area libraries are the Pohick Regional Library and the Kings Park Library. According to Fairfax County Public Libraries spokesperson Lois Kirkpatrick, Pohick Regional is the second-busiest library branch in the county, loaning nearly 950,000 books and other items in the 2004-05 fiscal year. Kings Park Library loaned over 514,000 books and materials that year, she said. The Burke Centre Library will relieve pressure on these two libraries.

Since the library and VRE project are taking place at the same time, temporary VRE parking will be available in the library's parking lot, as soon as it is completed in August 2006.