Beyond the city limits: The revitalization of Richmond Highway

Beyond the city limits: The revitalization of Richmond Highway

By Edythe Frankel Kelleher (Photo/Edythe Frankel Kelleher)

You may call it greater Alexandria, Southeast Fairfax, Route 1 or the Richmond Highway corridor. One of the first developed areas in Fairfax County, it serves as the primary gateway to the City of Alexandria and Washington.

It has a rich history dating from colonial times to the motor courts of the 1950s. With the construction of Shirley Highway (Interstate 95) in 1952, traffic increasingly bypassed Richmond Highway, and many of the nearby businesses struggled to survive. But efforts are underway to revitalize this stretch of Alexandria beyond the city limits.

This series of articles will chronicle what’s happening along the highway, especially the openings of new businesses and issues of interest to local residents.


Costco opened its Richmond Highway location August 8 with a line of eager shoppers waiting, their carts at the ready.

By making a store of Costco’s size subject to special-exception approval, Fairfax County officials ensured the project included much-needed infrastructure improvements. These include transportation — shared access with Wal-Mart and dual left-turn lanes — landscaping, positioning of the building and a mural depicting the history of nearby Beacon Field.

Meanwhile, Evolution Home, a consignment home furnishings store, relocated to Shields Avenue from Del Ray. Painted bright green, with a chair “evolving” from old to new on the corner, the antique center stands out.

The interior contains small rooms that showcase offerings from individual dealers. Owner Lee Blount said the former tenant, an appliance store, used the rooms for kitchen and bath displays. Blount’s merchandise includes furniture, rugs, paintings, vases, light fixtures, dishes and glassware, and personal accessories, such as ties and jewelry.

Co-owner Susan Driscoll is assembling mementos to celebrate the property’s history as a one-time bowling alley. She has asked patrons to bring old bowling memorabilia by the store.


The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority has proposed amending the zoning ordinance to allow all-studio rental buildings in every residential, commercial and industrial zone.

These projects would only be permitted on what are known as collector roads, which funnel traffic from local streets to major arteries. Some surprisingly small streets are considered collector roads, including Popkins Lane, Rebecca Drive and Elba Road.

Each unit would be up to 500 square feet, with a kitchen and bath. Each building would contain three to 75 units.

Units could have up to three occupants. The household income limit for most units would be 80 percent of the area median, which is about $45,000 for one person. One parking space per unit would be required, although that could be reduced if public transportation is available.

The Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations recently held a community meeting to discuss the proposal. Concerns included parking problems, enforcement issues, changing the character of neighborhoods and negative effects on Richmond Highway revitalization efforts.

The county planning commission will hold work sessions on this proposal September 25 and October 2 as well as a public hearing October 23. All begin at 8 p.m. in the Fairfax County Government Center’s board auditorium.


The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is conducting an analysis to consider public transit options along Richmond Highway. The first community meeting will occur next month, though no date has been set.

Fairfax County’s transportation department is starting a community dialogue to set six-year spending priorities. A proposed project list will be released soon, with regional community meetings from the middle of this month to mid-November.

Finally, the first of two public hearings on the Route 1 improvements at Fort Belvoir will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the South County Center, 8350 Richmond Highway. This hearing will focus on improvements from east of Cook Inlet Drive to Belvoir Station Road.

A second public hearing — for improvements from east of Pohick Road to east of Cook Inlet Drive and east of Belvoir Road to Mount Vernon Memorial Highway — will occur later this fall.

The Southeast Fairfax Development Corp. has created a webpage to help residents keep track of these transportation studies:

The writer is executive director of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp.