Fairfax board to revisit plans to transform Baileys Crossroads

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 8, 2010

In the 1960s, a planned Metrorail extension through Baileys Crossroads inspired the development of Skyline, a collection of high-rise office and residential buildings.

But local politicians abandoned the proposed Columbia Pike line through Falls Church, and Skyline became a mini-city rising awkwardly above one-story strip malls, gas stations and restaurants.

Developer Charles E. Smith "built an entire Skyline city to match the Metro plan," said Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), whose district includes Baileys Crossroads. "The line should have been built. It was on the plan. People invested in the plan."

Four decades later, Fairfax officials want to redeem the development potential of Baileys Crossroads. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors plans to consider a blueprint for revitalizing about 530 acres near Leesburg Pike and Columbia Pike.

By 2040, most of the area could be a town center-style neighborhood with tree-lined streets, sidewalk cafes, and clusters of apartments and offices above retail stores. Baileys would have two stops along the route of a planned streetcar connecting the area to Arlington County. The densest development would be in areas near the transit stations.

"The mistake was that Metro was taken off the plan for the Baileys Skyline area, and I'm trying to make up for that," Gross said.

Baileys is one of seven commercial districts that Fairfax has targeted for redevelopment. County officials say they hope to remake the communities into walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods served by mass transit.

It's also where officials plan to concentrate growth in the county, which is home to more than 1 million people. Fairfax is projected to grow by 225,000 residents and about that many employees over the next 30 years.

"It's a fair amount of people, and that's why it's so important to put them where they can be best served by a transportation system. Clearly, the reliance on cars is not the way to go," said Barbara Byron, director of the county's Office of Community Revitalization and Reinvestment.

Most of the growth is expected to occur in Tysons Corner, which is not one of the seven revitalization areas. But the county recently approved a plan permitting the redevelopment of Tysons' 1,700 acres into an urban center.

There is 'nothing new'

Under the Baileys plan, the area could have up to 9 million square feet of mostly retail and office space and 9,000 new residential units. Today, Baileys is home to federal agencies and major employers, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC and Northrop Grumman. Skyline takes up most of the office space.

The rest of the area is mostly apartments, restaurants and big-box stores separated by empty lots and homes converted into businesses. There is "nothing new, nothing 2010 in style or function. We have a couple of banks," said Frank Sellers, a Realtor and longtime resident who is president of the Bailey's Crossroads/Seven Corner's Revitalization Corp., a nonprofit organization of residents and business owners.

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