The Fairfax County Supervisors voted $130,000 yesterday to start transforming the Rte. 1 corridor -- an unseemly strip of fast food stores, abandoned service stations and small shopping centers -- into high-quality office parks, attractive shopping malls and high-technology research establishments.
The transformation -- the suburban equivalent of toad-into-prince -- is the goal of a plan long in the works, aimed at revitalizing the 7 1/2-mile strip running from the Beltway south to Fort Belvoir. Once a commercial center, the Rte. 1 strip has been eclipsed since the construction of Shirley Highway in the late 1940s and the emergence of regional shopping malls.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed creation of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., a nonprofit independent firm that is supposed to act as a development broker, matching developers with sites and tenants. In voting the $130,000 to set up the firm, the supervisors indicated that they will supply a similar amount next year.
"The Rte. 1 corridor is an older part of the county in desparate need of upgrading," said Board Chairman John F. Herrity. "It deserves this opportunity."
All the board members stressed the importance of attracting sizable private contributions and investments. "We're willing to put up the money, to a point," Herrity said. "But we can't do it without attracting more private capital."
"Two years should be enough time to show some progress," said Lee District supervisor Joseph Alexander, who, with Mount Vernon supervisor Sandra L. Duckworth has been working to get the Rte. 1 revitalization under way.
A consultant's report commissioned by the board last year and approved last night recommended that SFDC give top priority to improving transporation and road intersections in the Rte. 1 area.
The consultants, Zuchelli, Hunter & Associates Inc., urged that the county pay the cost of intersection improvements at Rte. 1 and Fort Hunt Road, just south of the Beltway, and at the Penn-Daw interchange at Kings Highway, where delays are common around rush hour. They argued that if the county paid for the improvements at the same time developers make commitments to upgrade an area, the county will reap rewards in tax revenues.
The consultants further recommended that SFDC, as its first project, seek to find a developer for the 10-acre site of the old Groveton school, on Rte. 1 and Memorial Drive. The consultants urge that the site, currently owned by the county and considered highly marketable, should be turned into an office park like those around Tyson's Corner, with 150,000 square feet of prime office space.