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Residents want Seven Corners safer for walking and biking

Residents and business owners at Seven Corners want to make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, provide better transit or otherwise alleviate the traffic congestion, and preserve the diverse population and affordable housing.

The Eden Center, one part of the Seven Corners area. Photo by dewitahs on Flickr.

Those were common themes from more than 100 Seven Corners residents and business owners at a May 21 session organized by the Fairfax County Office of Community Revitalization (OCR).

The "visioning exercise," which called for participants to meet in small groups to list what they perceive as the area's strengths and challenges and their vision for the future, is the first step in a county process to develop a framework for guiding redevelopment.

Among the assets cited by residents were:

  • The diverse population of Seven Corners, including diversity of cultures, ages, and incomes
  • Plenty of affordable housing
  • The history of the area, including events from the Civil War and the first shopping center in Northern Virginia
  • The proximity to Washington, DC
  • A variety of shopping and dining options
  • Stable, established neighborhoods nearby
Challenges that need to be addressed:
  • Route 50 and Route 7 are major barriers and make it extremely difficult to walk through the area
  • Too much litter and too many illegal signs
  • There is no chamber of commerce or other organization of business owners
  • The schools are overcrowded and need renovation
  • The larger Seven Corners area is divided among different jurisdictions—Arlington and the City of Falls Church, as well as Fairfax County

The map of Seven Corners illustrates the lack of connectivity. Photo by the author of a display board presented at the meeting.

Just about everybody cited the traffic congestion as a huge challenge. The ideas that emerged for addressing it included improving the synchronization of traffic lights, totally redesigning the Route 50/Route 7 intersection, and providing an express bus to DC.

Other ideas mentioned for improving Seven Corners, some of them long-term:

  • Improve the streetscapes
  • Provide more community gathering places, such as parks, outdoor cafes, and farmers' markets
  • Create a public/private partnership to spur revitalization
  • Add an escalator to connect the two levels of the Seven Corners Shopping Center
  • Provide streetcars to connect Seven Corners to the East Falls Church Metro station and other centers, such as Tysons and Alexandria
  • Get rid of the large parking lots and create a central plaza
  • Attract more young professionals, while also retaining a diverse mix of cultures, ages, and incomes
  • Add amenities, such as bike trails, parks, soccer fields, a movie theater, more trees, open space, and public art
  • Build mixed-use developments combining housing and retail

Binh Nguyen. Photo by the author.
Binh Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce for the Greater Washington, DC area, said many of the Eden Center business owners had been thinking of leaving the area due to the declining economy and civil rights issues—even though some 70,000 people come to that shopping center every weekend.

But the possibility of revitalizing Seven Corners is a hopeful sign. "We want to be a part of this great community," he said, adding that Vietnamese businesses are interested in contributing to the development of a new community center.

Alejandria Caballero of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services reported on the concerns of some of the apartment residents. They want more parks, more police patrols to make the streets safer for evening walks, more family-friendly restaurants, and a more accessible health clinic. They said the Willston Multicultural Center needs to be renovated and the pedestrian bridge over Route 50 needs to be cleaned up.

Iqbal Khaiy. Photo by the author.
The biggest problem is traffic congestion, said Iqbal Khaiy, who also mentioned the lack of walkability, the overcrowded schools, and the need to create "a sense of place." She said it's important to "retain the character and diversity of Seven Corners and give it a facelift."

Jeff Longo said that even though he lives and works in Seven Corners, he can't walk to work because it's impossible to cross the street. The benefits of the area include convenience, diversity, variety of restaurants, and proximity to Arlington and DC, but there is "too much concrete and not enough green."

Debbie Smith called for "smart development that doesn't strain natural resources." And several people mentioned the need to retain the unique character of Seven Corners and not copy Ballston or Tysons Corner.

The OCR will prepare a summary of the comments to share at the next workshop, which will be held June 18, 7 pm at the same location, 6245 Leesburg Pike.

Meanwhile, a major clean-up effort to get rid of the litter and illegal signs, is tentatively scheduled for June 23.

Cross-posted at Annandale VA.

Ellie Ashford is a longtime Annandale resident who launched the Annandale VA blog to encourage community engagement. 


Add a comment »

I live near here. All efforts to make 7 corners a better place are welcome.

by Michael Perkins on May 24, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

Hmmmmm ...

Off the top of my head, without a major reconfiguration of the area including rte 50, rte 7, Wilson Blvd, and several ancillary roads in the area, I think that this is a fantasy. I still think it's worthwhile to go through the mental exercise. But there has to be low hanging fruit before tackling this monster.

by Geof Gee on May 24, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

Seven Corners is so bad on so many levels, while having good stores, that improvement can not be hard. Though, what will be hard is to figure out where to start in this mess.

by Jasper on May 24, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

I am so glad you are writing about 7 corners. It has a lot of potential with so much commerical zoning. Clearly thus far, none of that potential has been realized

by MW on May 24, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

I remember a discussion on ImagineDC about this area several years ago. In the comments the idea of turning Seven Corners into a traffic circle with Rte 50 running underneath became popular. Of course, that's a massive project that would probably cost a fortune and severely impact everyone nearby during construction. Dave Murphy's idea for an improved street grid for the area might be a better first step, since it would inconvenience fewer people traveling through the seven corners intersection.

by Lucre on May 24, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

Seven Corners has character?

(To be clear, Eden Center has character. The rest of the area has ... whatever the opposite of character is.)

by Miles Grant on May 24, 2012 4:38 pm • linkreport

I commute through 7 Corners every day. It's a huge mess and only going to get worse. An apartment tower and hotel are in the works for Route 50, and there are rumors about a townhouse project on the site of the medical buildings on Castle.

by Ellie Ashford on May 24, 2012 4:58 pm • linkreport

It's a shame that Seven Corners was ever allowed to become the mess that it is. I live nearby and although I enjoy the assets mentioned above, for obvious reasons I can't imagine living here indefinitely.

by J.C. on May 24, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

Good luck. That place can raise tour blood pressure just driving through. Can't imagine biking there. A few years ago i drove through seven corners when the traffic lights were down. What a cluster f$@&.

by I. Rex on May 24, 2012 6:22 pm • linkreport

I bike to and around 7 corners semi-frequently (and certainly more frequently than driving). Tge road situation is beyond solving without massive cash which is not happening anytime soon, so its best to look at other options.

First off, its not that bad biking or even walking because everything is so concentrated and close by (particularly the short distance among target, safewat, and home depot). There are alsi two good places to cross 50, at the intersection with Pat Henry and the ped bridge. There are also service lanes that are safe and not terribly unpleasant to walk/bike along.

That said, more needs to be done to make walking/biking safe for residents even if it makes it worse for drivers going through 7 corners on their way to somewhere else. I don't know specifically what that is but traffic calming devices and service lanes would seem to be a good idea. Also, a way to get from 50 to 7 easily by bike/ped is needed. It would also be nice if some of the parking lots were turned into tax revenue generating businesses or residences. That way folks wouldn't have to traverse vast lots to get where they were going. It would also be a way to raise money for the improvements and of course fewer parking spots means fewer cars coming in and causing congestion or making walking difficult.

7 Corner's diverse population and intetesting small businesses give it a lot of potential for further development. The question is how we do this in a way that's cost effective and some quick and dirty ped/bike improvements, paid for by permitting greater density, and encouraged through less red tape and regulation (particularly fewer burdensome parking min regs) seems like the most practical way to move forward and create jobs.

by Falls Church on May 24, 2012 6:51 pm • linkreport

Oh, and the other cheap and completely vital fix is to crack down on the blatant racism against the vietnamese businesses. We should be providing these job creators with awards, not harassing them. It's a great example of gov't gone wild, infringing on the basic rights we have in the constitution.

by Falls Church on May 24, 2012 7:06 pm • linkreport

*police racism and harassment is what I meant

by Falls Church on May 24, 2012 7:07 pm • linkreport

Conceptual Seven Corners, VA re-work.
1. Deck over existing grade-depressed Route 50
2. Re-route SB Route 7 to a parallel 1-way street using the existing turn bridge over Route 50 (street parking on SB & NB lanes)
3. Re-appropriate SB lanes as N/S DEDICATED LRT or BRT
4. 6 to 8 story urban infill with street level retail

by stevek_fairfax on May 24, 2012 8:36 pm • linkreport

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