Plan seeks to revive north Woodbridge with dense development

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2010

Woodbridge resident John Karhnak said he remembers when his neighborhood was vibrant and home to a host of businesses. He remembers when the Marumsco shopping plaza was crowded and difficult to navigate.

Now it is a different story.

Instead of a sea of cars at the shopping plaza, maybe a couple of dozen are parked outside the few discount stores left in the mostly vacant center. The rest of the Route 1 stretch through north Woodbridge is dotted with car repair shops, vacant buildings and deserted properties.

Some residents say north Woodbridge is desolate and blighted, and others say it looks like a war zone. Nearly everyone agrees it must change, and hopes are being pinned on a redevelopment plan supervisors are scheduled to vote on Tuesday.

"We've watched as business after business closed and shopping center after shopping center degraded," Karhnak said. "I'm disappointed with the direction it has taken over the years, but I am hopeful that the proposed plan will bring change."

The comprehensive plan amendment has been in the works for a few years and is the result of input from residents, developers, county officials and business owners. The plan focuses on turning a 160-acre plot of land into a mixed-use area with homes, businesses and offices.

"This is where you enter Prince William, and it's not a very good image right now. It's kind of a shock to come in and see the desolation," said Woodbridge resident Walter Peterman, 81.

The vision for north Woodbridge, an area county officials said extends from the Occoquan River to Occoquan Road and from Route 1 to Horner Road, is to develop up -- not out -- and to have office and commercial space on one level with residential units above.

The plan calls for 2,500 to 3,500 multifamily units, up to 750,000 square feet of office space, up to 500,000 square feet of retail development and a hotel. The development would be phased in, so residential development does not outpace commercial, county officials said.

"Everywhere in Prince William is either suburban or rural," said Woodbridge Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D), who has spearheaded the redevelopment effort. "In north Woodbridge, we are going to create the first urban setting. We are going to create a sense of community, a sense of place."

Principi said that 35 property owners would fall under the master plan and that they would be able to decide how or whether they want to fit into the vision. The goal, he said, is not to put people out of business but to try to integrate the old with the new.

"We're very happy with our tenants but would like to be a part of the new north Woodbridge concept," said Joon Park, who owns the Station Plaza in Woodbridge. "We are excited about the urban destination environment the plan is trying to achieve."

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