Boulevard of Dreams

Boulevard of Dreams

Fairfax Boulevard Partnership continues its work on helping city develop master plan for revitalizing the Route 50 corridor.

The Fairfax Boulevard corridor is the city’s economic engine, and some members of the community would like to see its master plan study completed before any plans for further development along the three-mile stretch move forward.

“I think that if there is a plan, and if they do get some guidelines, that we won’t have this awful Route 1 corridor look,” said Hildie Carney, a candidate in last May’s City Council election.

The City Council created the Fairfax Boulevard Business Improvement District (BID) in 2004, now called the Fairfax Boulevard Partnership, to provide internal management of the commercial corridor along Route 50. The partnership, consisting of more than 1,200 property owners and businesses, was established in July 2005 to “provide the vision and implement a multi-faceted approach to encourage the corridor’s revitalization,” according to this year’s BID Strategic Plan.

As the partnership enters its second year of existence, committees are working on the corridor’s revitalization in four main categories: streetscape, marketing, business development and master plan. John Napolitano, chairman of the BID, said it is the job of the master plan committee is to tell the City Council what the BID would like to see along the corridor, with regard to size and scale limitations, densities and types of development. It is the job of the committee, said Napolitano, to suggest a master plan for the city, not dictate what that plan will be. The city is then expected to adopt a master plan and a set of design guidelines, both of which will be added to the Comprehensive Plan as addenda, according to the city’s Request for Qualifications proposal.

“One of the efforts of the Fairfax Boulevard Partnership is to create a communication channel between all the citizens of the city and the business community,” said Napolitano. “It’s not a goal of us versus them, but a goal of creating communication so we can come up with common themes in development.”

SOME COMMON THEMES in development among some residents along the corridor include limiting or preventing high-density projects from going up, such as the proposed multi-use condominiums on the Rocky Gorge site, near the intersection of Stafford Drive and Route 50. City Council is expected to hear the Rocky Gorge proposal in September, and Mayor Robert Lederer expressed his concern for the correlation between that application and the sudden concern for an open space referendum on the November ballot. As far as putting the application and others like it on hold until a master plan for the corridor is actually developed, as Carney said she would like to see happen, Napolitano said everyone pretty much agrees.

“I think once this [master plan] is done, [future development] can be looked at in a more logical manner,” said Napolitano. “It’s not like we’re stopping any process. We’re hoping our process will sort of coincide with what we would say would be the next substantial development.”

The purpose of the BID is not to necessarily develop the corridor, but to reposition and redevelop it into a more attractive and unified business district, said Napolitano.

Sharon Cavileer, director of the Fairfax City Auto Dealers Association, said car dealers would like to see a better connection between Old Town and Route 50. Having two separate marketing campaigns for each area doesn’t make sense, said Cavileer, which is why dealerships want to focus on eliminating that disconnect under the BID and create more effective marketing tactics.

“It goes beyond beatification,” said Cavileer. “If people don’t know about it, they’re certainly not going to flock to it.”

Since Route 50 has always been a major thoroughfare connecting all of Northern Virginia, said Cavileer, it will always be heavily traveled. The point of the marketing is to get the travelers to stop for a while, since she said most people shop along their commuting route.

That is exactly what Napolitano said the Master Plan would address: how the three-mile stretch of road can become more than just a transit through the city. Realistically, he said, the plan won’t be completed until the Spring of next year, which means residents concerned about the Rocky Gorge site will have to sit tight until there is a more cohesive way to address new developments in the city. Even if the condominiums were approved, there would still be time in the process to make adjustments to its appearance. The BID would like Route 50 to stay the way it is, for now, so all future developments will be able to follow the guidelines set forth in the city’s Master Plan.

“We’re really looking at ourselves as the new neighborhood, and we want to work with all the other neighborhoods in the city,” said Napolitano.