The rallying cry in Woodbridge, Va., 30 miles southwest of the District, is transformation. And Frank J. Principi, the three-term Woodbridge District supervisor, is leading the charge.
“If you close your eyes and think of the Route 1 corridor anywhere along the eastern coast you think of bumper-to-bumper traffic, car chains and fast-food outlets,” he said. “But open your eyes here in Woodbridge now and you see a transformation.”
Construction crews are widening Route 1 from four to six lanes and fixing feeder roads; they’re putting utilities underground and installing pedestrian-friendly sidewalks; and they’re tearing down 68 blighted buildings and constructing shops for commercial and retail services.
Woodbridge is one of seven magisterial districts in Prince William County. It’s distinguished by its location along Occoquan Bay and the Occoquan River, the Potomac River, and Neabsco and Powell’s creeks. You can fish, camp, kayak, canoe and motorboat on the waters surrounding Woodbridge.
Principi’s vision is five town centers — Belmont Bay, Potomac Town Center, Potomac Shores, North Woodbridge Town Center, Neabsco Commons — developed in alignment with smart-growth principles that emphasize mixed use. “I want people to live, work, shop and play here,” he said.
His plans synthesize improving transit, strengthening neighborhoods with renovated libraries and schools, and attracting merchants who offer useful products. These changes are in progress.
Connected community: In Belmont Bay, one-way streets are narrow and cut in a grid pattern. “The design is deliberate, to slow traffic and make walking and biking safer,” said Principi. Architecture is traditional, with varying shades of red brick. Parcels of land await already-approved development of offices, hotels and stores.
“We’re a connected community and active citizenry,” said Pam Buchenauer, who has lived in Belmont Bay with her husband, Bob, since 2003. “We’re one of those neighborhoods where more people know their neighbors because we enjoy doing things together.”
There’s a book club and kayak club, among other groups. Volunteers raise money for the local school and gather for community cleanups. A social committee plans events all year. Coming up is a New Year’s Eve party with musician Steve Lauri at Osprey’s Landing Restaurant.
“The community does come out,” said Joyce Jolly, who moved there 10 years ago with her husband, Jim. “If somebody gets sick or has an accident, the meals come in.”
Principi ensures that all residents know what’s going on through his quarterly newsletter, town hall and tele-town-hall meetings, civic association meetings and website, www.newwoodbridge.org.
Recreation and shopping: Woodbridge has more than 1,000 acres of outdoor space — Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge, Metz Wetlands, Leesylvania State Park, Powells Landing Park, Rippon Landing Park, Neabsco Eagles Park. “Standing in the wildlife refuges is like a little piece of heaven,” said Principi.
The Woodbridge Loop is a pedestrian, bicyclist and hiker-friendly 50-mile network of sidewalks, trails and boardwalks along the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers.
Potomac Mills Outlet Mall has hundreds of stores. There are multiple Aldis, Giant Foods and Wegmans. Plus, there are La Azteca Latinas and El Houda International Foods.
Living there: Belmont Bay, Zip code 22191, is roughly bordered by Colchester Ferry Place on the north, Course View Way on the south, Harbor Side Street and the new George Mason Potomac Science Center on the east, and Route 1 on the west.
“The neighborhood is increasingly being noticed as a highly desirable place to live, and values are increasing due to that demand,” said Vern McHargue, real estate agent with Long & Foster and vice president of the Realtor Association of Prince William.
There are 900 residences in Belmont Bay, including 54 single-family houses, 321 townhouses and 525 mid- and high-rise and garden-style condos.
Twenty-nine properties are for sale ranging, from a one-bedroom, two-bathroom condo listing for $225,000 to a four-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse listing for $650,000.
Nine properties are under contract, ranging from a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo listing for $255,000 to a four-bedroom, four-bathroom single-family home for $689,900.
In the past year, 70 homes sold, ranging from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo listing for $222,000 to a five-bedroom, four-bathroom single-family home for $630,000.
Schools: Belmont Elementary, Fred M. Lynn Middle, Freedom High.
Transit: Woodbridge is sandwiched between Interstate 95 and the Potomac River. Its name is derived from a wooden bridge across the Occoquan River that George Washington crossed. The bridge was lost, replaced by a penny ferry, then by another bridge. Principi is championing a fast ferry, launching from Belmont Bay to points north — MGM National Harbor, Fort Belvoir, Bolling Air Force Base and the Southeast waterfront.
“Access to the freeway and commuter lots was important to me,” said Jose Llamas, a former resident.
Using I-95’s HOV lanes is popular. “You go to the commuter lot, park, get on the line for your destination. There’s no expectation of payment. You follow the etiquette — no cellphones, no talking, just get in and ride. It works beautifully and is the same going home,” said Llamas.
PRTC (Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commission) buses run along I-95 and Interstate 66, connecting to two Virginia Railway Express/Amtrak train stations in Woodbridge and to Metro stations in Virginia and the District.
Crime: According to the Prince William County Police Department, there were no homicides in the past year. Statistics on other crimes were not readily available.