Southeast Fairfax County is undergoing a massive transformation — and with it comes a new brand for the area.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck hosted the 35th Annual Mount Vernon Town Hall Meeting Saturday morning at Mount Vernon High School. It is the first time the event has been held in-person in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To promote tourism in the area, Visit Fairfax and the South County Tourism Task Force recently launched a new brand: Potomac Banks.
The rebranding is designed to emphasize the rich cultural, historical and nature-based assets in this part of the county including George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the recently opened National Museum of the United States Army on Fort Belvoir.
Long-term plans could involve a full service hotel and special vacation packages. One of the area’s treasured attractions is the American Horticultural Society’s River Farm which was successfully prevented from being sold and redeveloped last year as the result of strong community opposition. The site is now once again open to the public from 10 a.m.-4p.m. Monday through Friday.
In addition to rebranding the area, Fairfax County has invested heavily in infrastructure since 2021. $30 million was spent on roads, sidewalks and trails, $270 million was spent on new or renovated county buildings and almost $1 billion was spent on storm, wastewater and environmental and health improvements. Fairfax County has committed to going carbon neutral by 2040.
The county has also invested heavily in its people, especially during the pandemic. The county gave $50 million in funding to residents in need of assistance with food, rent and utilities. $90 million in grants were given to small businesses most affected by the shutdowns, in particular businesses owned by people of color and women-owned businesses. The county recently proposed the Fairfax Founders Fund program to encourage diverse and innovative start-ups in the county.
Crime is down by 10 percent from last year. Fairfax County is reportedly the safest jurisdiction of its size despite having one of the lowest ratios of officers to residents. There are currently 130 vacancies on the police force, although this includes positions at the new South County Police Station and co-located Animal Shelter which will open in 2023. The new Woodlawn Fire Station will hold its grand opening celebration on Feb. 19. At the end of last year, the county decided to move forward with relocating the Penn Daw Fire Station to 2801 Beacon Hill Rd. where it will be collocated with a homeless shelter.
Infrastructure and Roadway Developments
One of the largest development projects in the Mount Vernon District is the transformation of the Richmond Highway corridor. More than $1 billion will be invested in the project which includes an extension of the Metrorail’s yellow line and the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system down the corridor. The BRT will reveal its new branding at a community meeting scheduled for Feb. 25.
Charles Cuvelier, the Superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway spoke about changes along the scenic roadway. Last fall, a “road diet” was completed along the parkway which reduced the number of vehicular travel lanes, altered turn lanes, improved sight lines and other measures to increase safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
Beginning this week, the National Park Service will begin a project to replace Bridge 12 near Fort Hunt Park and realign the trail between the park and Waynewood Boulevard. That portion of the trail will be closed until summer 2022 and trail users will be detoured to a section of the southbound lane of the parkway. Pedestrians and cyclists will be protected from vehicular traffic by concrete barriers. The effort aims to improve safety near Fort Hunt Park and reduce the number and severity of bike crashes on that section of the trail. Cuvelier is committed to revitalizing Fort Hunt Park and this year, a new playground will be designed and installed at the park. Construction on the two mile extension of the Mount Vernon Trail between Richmond Highway and Southwood Drive kicked off last year.
New Housing Developments Slated to Open
There are a number of new developments arriving in the Mount Vernon District soon. The affordable housing projects North Hill (7201 Richmond Hwy.) and The Arden (2317 Huntington Ave.) will be opening this year, creating hundreds of units for low income, workforce and senior residents. Other housing projects that are expected to be completed soon include apartments at Aventon Huntington, Riverside Apartments, Huntington Crossing and the Belhaven.
This year, the county will consider a proposal to build 470 multifamily and townhome units on the site where Evolution Home is currently located off of Richmond Highway between Shields Avenue and Quander Road. The Brookside Motel at 6001 Richmond Hwy. could be replaced with a multifamily residential building. Messiah Lutheran Church at 6510 Fort Hunt Rd. closed its doors this year. The church property was sold to EVG Millers Reserve which plans to build single-family homes on the site. The church donated the $2 million proceeds to charity. Progress is being made on the Huntington Club Redevelopment. The 19 acre site will be transformed into townhouse and multifamily rental and for sale units as well as a continuing care facility. The site will have some workforce and affordable housing units.
The long anticipated renovation of the Mount Vernon Rec Center at 2017 Belle View Blvd. has been indefinitely delayed. Construction was supposed to begin this summer, but supply chain issues and an increase in the cost of building materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic have put a temporary halt on the project. The county will be rebidding the project once supply and prices stabilize hopefully sometime this year. The nearby Belle View Shopping center held a grand re-opening this year after a devastating fire in 2019. The center got a facelift and welcomed many new tenants.
New Businesses Opening This Year
Ethos Veterinary Health is planning to open a new 2,000 square foot state-of-the-art emergency and specialty veterinary hospital at 5904 Richmond Hwy. this year and is already hiring staff.
The former Great American Steak Buffet at 5901 Richmond Hwy. will be taken over by the medical cannabis dispensary, Beyond Hello.
South Alex, a mixed use apartments and retail development at the corner of North and South Kings Highway off of Richmond Highway is slated to open this year after a 2020 fire caused construction delays. The complex will be anchored by an Aldi grocery store. The county is accelerating plans to build a variety of new office, retail and residential buildings around the Huntington metro station over the next ten years.
The former Mount Vernon Athletic Club site is being transformed into the Lee District Community Center, with phase 1 of the project anticipated to open early 2022. The original Mount Vernon High School is being reimagined for a number of community-focused uses like business incubator, performing arts space and continuing education.
Mount Vernon residents can look forward to a number of exciting events this year like the Ides of Bark Dog Festival on March 27 at Gristmill Park, the Environmental Expo on April 23 at Fort Hunt Park and the Tour de Mount Vernon Community Bike Ride on Oct. 22.
For more details, catch a replay of the meeting on Supervisor Storck’s Facebook page.