For the first time in years, the Richmond Highway corridor is seeing a building boom.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D), whose district includes a portion of the U.S. 1 corridor, said it is the most development activity he can recall during his tenure on the Board of Supervisors, which dates to the late 1980s.
“From a location standpoint, it is an area that has been crying to be redeveloped,” Hyland said.
It offers easy access to Interstate 495, the city of Alexandria, Maryland and Washington, D.C, he said, and offers transit service via the Huntington Avenue Metro Station and bus service along U.S. 1.
As one of the first areas of Fairfax County to be developed, many existing properties have reached the end of their life cycle. The county’s comprehensive plan was recently updated allowing more dense development in certain areas, there has been an increase in the workforce at Fort Belvoir because of the base realignment process, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital is expanding, U.S. 1 is being widened and there is a study underway about adding more transit options to the corridor.
“You put all those things together and I think there is a synergy that has appealed to developers,” Hyland said.
There have also been smaller changes, such as new wayfinding signs, said Edythe Kelleher, executive director of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, an economic development organization.
The redevelopment has already brought new hotels, several new or revamped retail centers and new apartments. Construction is under way on two new apartment buildings, with hundreds more apartments in the pipeline, as well as more retail, office space and hotels as part of mixed-use projects already approved by the county for future development throughout the 7.5-mile stretch of Richmond Highway between the Beltway and Fort Belvoir.
Kelleher said the new retail options are already starting to change the feel of the corridor. For example, she said. “within a year we went from zero frozen yogurt shops to four on the highway.”
Some of the newer shopping centers are designed to have more of a city street feeling than a traditional strip mall, she said.
“I think in general the economy improved a little bit, and this area was really primed for it,” Kelleher said.