Taking notice of redevelopment in the Merrifield area of Fairfax County, The New York Times has suggested that this “suburban wasteland in Virginia” is at last getting an urban feel.
The centerpiece of the suburban makeover is the 31-acre Mosaic district, a project of Columbia, S.C.-based Edens, a private retail developer. When fully built out, the mixed-use project will include 500,000 square feet of retail and 1,000 residential units. Writes Alison M. Rice for the NYTimes:
In the Mosaic District, Edens grouped its tenants by type, clustering specialty grocers such as MOM’s Organic Market close to a butcher, fish market and wine shop, for example. “Mixed use has relied on food of all kinds as its primary anchor, from Whole Foods to Harris Teeter and restaurants of all types,” said Maureen McAvey, a retail specialist with the Urban Land Institute in Washington. “As bookstores closed, food has become even more important” to retail development.
Trendy new retail concepts are great, but they may not prove enduring. What Merrifield still really needs is the sought-after “walkability” factor, and that, in Rice’s appraisal, remains elusive. “Intended as a pedestrian-friendly town center and less than a mile from a Metro station,” she writes, “Mosaic is still best reached for many visitors by car or bus, rather than on foot, because of traffic on nearby roads.”
Six decades of disastrous land use decisions will not be reversed by a single project. The vast quilt that is Fairfax County, home to more than one million residents, can be repaired only one patch at a time. Fortunately, developers like Eden are quick to respond to changing market preferences and local government leadership seems willing to let the county evolve.