Washington, DC – In mid-November, as part of a series of meetings with local economic development organizations, the WBC Regional Development Committee met with Edythe Frankel Kelleher, Executive Director of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC). Established in 1981, SFDC focuses on promoting the redevelopment and revitalization of the Richmond Highway corridor of U.S. Route 1 between Ft. Belvoir and the Beltway in Fairfax County. Over the last thirty-plus years, SFDC has helped direct nearly $2 billion in private investment toward development of the Richmond Highway Corridor. As a part of our meeting, Kelleher reviewed recent and future developments along the Corridor.
Since implementation of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations, Fort Belvoir has seen its ranks increase to more than 26,000 employees on post over the past few years. To accompany that expansion, the Army upgraded its on-base lodging facilities, building a Staybridge Suites on post.
Outside of Fort Belvoir, SFDC saw the completion and opening of number of retail projects like Fordson Place, a new retail center on Richmond Highway between Fordson Road and Boswell Avenue, and Kings Crossing, a retail center just south of the Beltway. The past two years also saw the opening of mixed-use developments like The Beacon at Groveton, containing 290 upscale apartments and 10,000 of ground-level retail, and new residential developments like the Shelby, a 240-unit luxury apartment building.
Development along the Corridor is far from done, according to Kelleher. The Hersha Group, a Pennsylvania-based hotel developer, plans on constructing a new Fairfield Inn & Suites at 6417 Richmond Highway. WBC members should also be on the look-out for development of the following projects in the near future:
• A new Baywood Hotels Town Suites in the Woodlawn Area
• Two new Landmark Atlantic projects – Skyview Phase II, a residential townhome project at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Frye Road, and Mt. Vernon Gateway, a residential project near Buckman Road.
• One Kings: a planned mixed-used replacement for the current Penn Daw Plaza. The current plan is for 490 apartments and townhomes, plus ground-level retail.
• Emergency Room addition to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, which is expected to commence sometime in 2015.
As part of the BRAC expansion, the Department of Defense included money to widen Highway 1 around Fort Belvoir. Unfortunately, the federal appropriation did not cover widening the remaining 2.4 miles between Fort Belvoir and the Beltway. Although funding has not been finalized, Fairfax County has placed widening the remaining distance high on its wish list of future projects. Kelleher hoped that funding will be secured and that the Project will be ready to move forward within the next few years.
Kelleher also discussed Fairfax County's efforts to expedite its permitting and development review process – an effort that SFDC (and, no doubt, WBC's members) fully support. As Kelleher stated, a timely review process helps (not hurts) Fairfax County as the faster development can begin, the faster the County begins receiving tax revenue. Kelleher stated permit and development applications have increased substantially despite reduced Country resources to conduct review.
To keep permit and development review moving quickly, Fairfax County anticipates adding several new staff positions. To help fund those positions, Kelleher stated that the County will likely raise fees on building permits and other related applications.
As a bonus, the Committee learned that Kelleher is the Vice Mayor of the Town of Vienna, Virginia and is currently serving her seventh term on the Town Council. Kelleher discussed the changing demographics of Vienna and the fact that Vienna just revised its regulations to allow for taller buildings and mixed-use developments in the future.
Kelleher said the Vienna Town Council just approved plans for a new Community Center and expects the RFP will be issued in January/February and welcomes the participation of WBC members.