WaPo does it again. In a Business Section front page story today (“Assessing Fort Belvoir’s Problems and Prospects: Increased Traffic Is No.1 Official Concern”) not a single mention of the real solution: Create a Balanced Community, not another focus of excess jobs like Tysons Corner.

The southeastern part of Fairfax County has needed a community focus for over 40 years. One was called for in the 1950s County Comprehensive Plan. That plan had four. “New towns” were planned for Wiehle (Reston), Centreville (still not a real community) and Burke (Burke Centre is one village of such a place) and southeastern Fairfax. Specifically, the land that became Lorton Reformatory was to be a satellite planned new community.

That never happened and when the prison went away another opportunity was lost. Now there is a chance to rethink the southwestern part of the County and develop a real Balanced Community. METRO is not far away, the federal government owns a lot of land… See “METRO Ills and Base Closings,” 20 June 2005 at db4.dev.baconsrebellion.com.

It seems no one wants to talk about the real solution, not the military, not the smart growth types, not the governance practitioners, no one.

Just one caution: Do not assume putting federal facilities in a isolated “campus” will make the workers or their work secure from terrorists.


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  1. I think that people, for good reason, are thinking short term right now. For example, if Route 1 is a parking lot right now, what will happen if you add 18k jobs?

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Let’s face it. Nothing will ever be good enogh for EMR and probably will not be even an incremental improvement in the right direction, until we all live in cubbyholes drilled into the Metro station walls.

    He complains that no one wants to talk about the real solution, and then, like the paid programming people that hawk get rich quick real estate schemes, he continually dangles the coming truth without ever getting to what it is, or how much it costs.

    Having said that, I agree with what he said about an opportunity lost with the Lorton project.

    Centreville is still not a real community. I lived there for a short time when it was still rural enough to have horse farms and an all-purpose hardware store. It may have been more of a community then than now, but it clearly has more economic value now.

    When will it be a complete community? Probably just about the time the city has expanded to swallow Centreville into the doughnut hole, at which point local activists will decry revitalization (probably mandated by the supreme court).

    What really kills me about this argument is that he calls Tyon’s “another focus of excess jobs” when the entire basis of all his arguments is that the city is the center of jobs and they are not going to move, so we need to build denser cities to support the job demand.

    Now that the job demand is moving, partly because of high city costs and partly because of the locations where people actually want to live, he is screaming “Imbalance, Imbalance”,

    Never mind that the Fairfax comprehensive plan has failed to produce the desired results for forty years, his plans will enable us all to enjoy lower costs of services, maybe sometime in ur great-grandchildrens dim old age memories.

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ed, at the risk of inflaming Mr. Hyde into mischaracterizing your arguments yet again, could you elaborate on your idea? How would you see a “balanced community” taking shape in Southeastern Fairfax? What are the key elements that now are lacking?

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I apologize. That was a little over the top. Still, jobs are moving away from the city center, because of telecommuting, commuting costs, and other factors. If Tyson’s is an overconcentration of jobs, what is the Pentagon?

  5. Ben Tribbett Avatar
    Ben Tribbett

    I lived in Burke Centre for 15 years and was on all sorts of community committees there. It’s not a balanced community because there are no jobs there. Since everyone has to leave Burke Centre to work, that is one of the reasons the VRE stop there has more riders than any other.

  6. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Ben Tribbett on Burke Centre:

    You are absolutely right, Burke Centre is not a “Balanced Community.” And I never said it was, even when we were developing it. Check out your old Burke Centre Conservancy documents. Burke Centre is a village made up of five neighborhoods and each neighborhood is made up of clusters. (We had not by that time articulated the role of the Dooryard.)

    Burke Centre is, as we noted in the posting above a “village.” That is one step down in scale of the organic composition of human settlement patterns. A Balanced (Alpha) Community is made up of several Alpha Villages which do not, by definition have a balance of jobs/housing/services/recreation/amenity.

    You are also right that Burke Centre lacks jobs. We did as much as a private partnership could to add more jobs (build speculative incubator space, tried to encourage telework, waited as long as we could to include more employment uses in the village center, hired consultants to try to figure out programs that would create jobs, worked the Chamber of Commerce crowd, etc.) Jack Herity, to his credit tried to get more jobs into Burke Centre.

    The 1950s plan for Fairfax County indicated Burke as one of the four major satellite planned new communities. The land that became Burke Centre was to be the core but the 1975 plan changed that for reasons too complex for this explantion.

    Jim Bacon and Balanced Community in southeaster Fairfax:

    When we did the sketch plan of potential Balanced (Alpha) Communities in the northern part of Virginia as part of the development of Handbook we located 9 in Fairfax County (Reston, Tysons Corner, etc.) Eight of them are sold symbols indicating the location of the core of the potential center is clear. When we came to the one on the I-95 Corridor between Greater Springfield/Franconia and Greater Dale City/Woodbridge/East Prince William it is a hollow symbol.

    As noted in the Handbook, the first step in planning a Balanced Community is to identify the location of the core within the regional context. (That is what all those “town center” projects try to do but even the best intended ones face the same problems that we did in Burke Centre. As an aside, the best location is often a vacant or underutilized site that is owned by speculators who Bill H. and his Save-the-Children-from-Kelo heros want to protect.) We do not know where the core should be but it is clear that there is a need for Balanced Community.

    There are a lot of elements at dooryard-scale, cluster-scale and even neighborhood-scale that could be part of a Balanced Community. The key would be the role of the Army and the County in joining forces to create a balance of jobs/housing/service/recreation/amentiy. It would be a step toward solving a lot of problems as noted in our “METRO Ills and Base Closing” column at db4.dev.baconsrebellion.com.


  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Additonal points:

    Yes, the military jobs would be outside the Beltway but both Meade and Belvoir are well inside R=20 from the respective subregional cores.

    No one said that Greater South Arlington, Greater North Arlington and Greater Tysons Corners did not need more housing to balance the jobs that exist there. In fact that is exactly what we said in “Antidote” at db4.dev.baconsrebellion.com.

    We need 25 to 30 Balanced Communities inside the Clear Edge (Between R=20 and R=30) around the core of the National Capital Subregion.

    In addion, there is a need for Balanced (but disaggregated) Communities in the Countryside outside the Clear Edge.


  8. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “We need 25 to 30 Balanced Communities inside the Clear Edge (Between R=20 and R=30) around the core of the National Capital Subregion.

    In addion, there is a need for Balanced (but disaggregated) Communities in the Countryside outside the Clear Edge.”

    Stop the presses. EMR and I agree on something.

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