Revitalization of the Route 1 corridor is alive and well, but, it still has a long way to go.
That was the shared assessment of Supervisors Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) and Dana Kauffman (D-Lee). This view was buttressed by Richard F. "Rick" Neel, president of Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC), during the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce's annual State of the Districts dinner March 29.
"The Route 1 corridor has attracted nearly $1 billion in investments since SFDC was formed by a group of business and political leaders 25 years ago. And the past three years have shown an acceleration in that growth and development," Neel told a room full of Chamber members and guests at the Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria.
"I see 2007 as being a very strong year for the Highway. And, I predict it will be called the 'Year of The Restaurant' because we have so many coming to the Route 1 corridor," he said. "But a lot of challenges and goals still remain. One of those is that we need to develop a lot more office space on Route 1. This has been a long range goal of SFDC and remains so today."
Neel noted that the Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC) is supposed to "spur several million square feet of new office space" on Route 1. He also suggested that the comprehensive plan for Southeastern Fairfax County needs to look at "new economic catalysts" coming to the area.
Neel's assessment of the Route 1 corridor was seconded by Hyland. Referring to the newly established Office of Revitalization in the County Executive's office, Hyland said "We have to insure that SFDC is an essential element as we change our approach" to strengthening revitalization.
Praising Barbara Byron as the newly named director of the Revitalization Office, Hyland assured the audience "revitalization will definitely continue. Barbara is from the Mount Vernon area and she knows the territory."
Byron is presently the director of Zoning Evaluation in the County Department of Planning and Zoning. Her new assignment is scheduled to commence July 1.
REVIEWING OTHER developments in Mount Vernon District, Hyland said that Kings Crossing "is alive again."
"I like JPI's new proposal. I believe it puts something on the table that can be approved," he said.
As for BRAC, said Hyland, "I still believe that a 120-bed hospital will come to the main post at Fort Belvoir regardless of what you are hearing about Walter Reed."
"The main problem with BRAC's impact is that not a penny has been committed to deal with the 22,000 coming to Fort Belvoir as a result of BRAC. The real challenge is to make the necessary funding a reality," he said. "The transportation bill that has been amended by the Governor is a better bill than passed by the General Assembly. As amended it will also give us some chance to help the Army to build new transportation needs brought on by BRAC."
Taking note of Kauffman's announcement not to seek reelection, Hyland said, "Dana represents a representative's representative as well as a politician's politician."
When he came to the podium, Kauffman thanked the audience for supporting him for the past 12 years as Lee District Supervisor.
"This job isn't about partisan politics. It's about people's families, homes and businesses," Kauffman said. "If I had to pick a poster child to show the progress we've made with Route 1 revitalization I would pick the old Keystone Motel and the South County Government Center. The motel represented the worst of the old Route 1 corridor and the government center represents the best."
The motel and government center represent the cooperation between Lee and Mount Vernon districts, he said.
"But, as happy as I am with what we have accomplished with revitalization, we must do better. Revitalization will now be located where it should have been all along — in the office of the County Executive," he said. "If we are serious about taking redevelopment to the next level, the work of this new office will have to be prioritized. I won't be here to participate but I wish you good luck with the rest of this adventure."
The annual State of the Districts is co-sponsored by the Chamber and SFDC. This year's dinner sponsors were McEnearney Associates and Roy Rogers Restaurants.