General Robert E. Lee has suffered another defeat in Virginia — the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has voted to rename the Lee District to the Franconia District.
The board unanimously approved changing the county code to reflect the new name on Tuesday (Dec. 6), formalizing a change that it had already supported in June.
The name change is the latest in a series of efforts to disentangle localities from names honoring Confederate leaders, though Fairfax County’s release noted that there is no conclusive historical evidence that the district was named for Robert E. Lee.
Still, the release said the general perception is that the name honors Lee. Name changes for that district and Sully District were recommended in March by the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee.
While other officers like John Mosby have also been brought up for discussion, Lee has been an easy and iconic target for renaming. In 2019, Arlington renamed its Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty, and Fairfax County Public Schools renamed Robert E. Lee High School for Rep. John Lewis in 2020.
Supervisor Rodney Lusk helped launch the renaming initiative last March and said it’s been an issue on his mind for years:
Back when I was a candidate, I heard from many in the community about their desire to have conversations about [the name]. For me, as an African American and a proud resident of this district for the past 22 years; whose lived my life, raised my two African American daughters under the signage of the Robert E. Lee Recreation Center, under the signage of Robert E. Lee High School, it’s been a conversation I’ve carried in my heart for many years, and I know that’s true for many others in our community… As we turn the page and continue to write the history of our community; we’re not erasing history, we’re making it.
Staff said much of the groundwork required for the name change has already been laid out. The last changes will be updates to the county’s GIS mapping and election precincts, which will all be completed this spring.
“Residents deserve a community that better reflects them,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We can’t go back and change history, but we absolutely have a right to decide what it is in history we want to celebrate and what it is in history we want to learn from and do better.”
The county release said the renaming will also include:
- Lee District Rec Center, which is now known as the Franconia Rec Center
- Lee District Park is now called Franconia Park
- Lee High Park is now Lewis High Park
- Lee Residential Permit Parking District is now the Lewis Parking District
- Lee Community Parking District is now renamed the Franconia Parking District
The day after the Board of Supervisors vote, the Fairfax County Park Authority announced that its board had unanimously approved renaming three of its facilities:
- Lee High Park to Lewis High Park
- Lee District Rec Center to Franconia Rec Center
- Lee District Park to Franconia Park
A decade after Springfield Mall was torn down, reemerging two years later as Springfield Town Center, Fairfax County officials are still trying to figure out how to make the reality of the development match that rebranding.
Progress on transforming downtown Springfield from a commercial hub into the more mixed-use, walkable environment envisioned by county planners has been slow, even nonexistent when it comes to housing, a recently released study found.
In fact, the area hasn’t added a single multifamily residential unit since the Springfield Crossing apartments were built in 2001, according to the Springfield-Franconia Market Study commissioned by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA).
“That’s insane,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said. “Think about it for a second. Every market has had some sort of residential construction. We have had zero. So, that’s something that we have to obviously think about and figure out where we might allow more residential options…in the areas that make up the Franconia-Springfield market.”
Attributed at least in part to lower rents compared to areas like Tysons or Bethesda, the lack of housing isn’t the only challenge facing downtown Franconia-Springfield, which is concentrated around the I-95 and Old Keene Mill/Franconia Road interchange.
According to the study, which was conducted by the consultant HR&A, Springfield has 3.2 million square feet of retail development, 2.7 million square feet of office space, 978 multifamily units, 1,843 hotel rooms, and 0.3 million square feet of industrial space.
While the existing shopping centers, including the town center, are performing well overall, retail growth has slowed with just 22,000 square feet added since 2010, and vacancies have jumped to 6.4% during the pandemic.
Covid also drove up vacancies in the office market, where the rate climbed from 13% pre-pandemic to 19% as of early 2022, and sent hotel occupancy rates tumbling from 73.7% in 2019 to 28.4% in 2020 before bouncing back to 51% this year.
Aside from industrial construction, which has stalled since 1988, the study projects room for growth across all markets over the next 10 years, including 1,000 to 1,600 multifamily units, but mixed-use development is necessary to achieve that potential.
“There have been significant private investments in Springfield, most notably at Springfield Town Center and the TSA headquarters,” the report said. “However, growth has been focused on site-specific investments, not mixed-use development supportive of County goals or catalytic growth.”
Mixed-use development would require not only more housing, particularly mid-rise buildings less than eight stories tall, but also amenities and public infrastructure to draw residents, workers and the tourists that the study says are needed to offset declining business travel. Read More
A major rewrite of Reston’s central planning document — the Reston Comprehensive Plan — could take additional time for review due to pending legal issues and concerns flagged by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
At the board’s land use policy meeting last week, county staff noted that the update to the plan — which was led by a 31-member task force over the last two years — contains language that is at odds with some countywide policies. The county’s attorneys office is reviewing the draft, which was written by the task force, for legal issues.
The ongoing review is expected to delay the approval process — which previously docketed for Nov. 2 before the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
Public comment on the plan is ongoing. The task force approved draft recommendations on Aug. 28 after 58 public meetings. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn convened the task force after he took office in 2020.
While lauding the overall effort led by Alcorn and the community, some board members characterized the update as ambitious or overtly prescriptive.
Rather than broadly limiting, restricting or expanding development, the plan makes site-specific changes to a limited number of areas. It also includes specific chapters dedicated to equity and community health.
The recommendations are intended to bring Reston — which is navigating the tension and opportunity of growth in transit-oriented areas and old development — into a new era.
“I am concerned that this may fail by its sheer weight,” Mason District Supervisor Gross said, observing that the draft appears to lean toward creating space for more William-Sonomas, a candle shop, than Dollar Stores.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said it’s important to recognize the plan is not the first in the county with a chapter dedicated to equity as a planning tool. The county’s One Fairfax racial and social equity policy, adopted in 2019, applies to the entire county.
“The last thing we want to do is confuse people that that’s not a standard,” McKay said.
Others questioned the decision to give the task force the authority to draft the plan instead of staff.
In a statement to FFXnow, Alcorn defended the approach, which he said is characteristic in community planning:
This is not new. Ever since the scandals of the 1960s (note these were referenced recently in a Fairfax County Times article on Edwin Henderson II) Fairfax County has practiced community-based planning where community task forces have been “given the pen” to ensure the direction and vision of the comprehensive plan reflects the will of the community. In my 16 years on the Fairfax County Planning Commission Mt. Vernon Commissioner and Planning Commission Vice-Chair John Beyers regularly referred to the comprehensive plan as “the people’s plan.”
This practice is noted in the 2011 Burnham Award from the American Planning Association when the Tysons plan was recognized as the best top comprehensive plan in the country. As for the recent Reston process, it is also true that much of the task force recommendation was drafted by County staff – frankly to the disappointment of some task force members. The task force recommendations include new proposed guidance on quality of life issues like equity and community health, and I look forward to continued community feedback and ultimately a recommendation from the planning commission that reflects the values that make Reston a special place.
Comparing the comprehensive plan amendment process to Seven Corners, Gross questioned why the task force led the writing when staff with professional expertise in policy writing and planning could have initiated the process with significant task-force and community input.
Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk encouraged staff and the board to use the “excellent” work by the task force as a foundation for the final update.
“Let’s think about this as an opportunity to use this excellent work as a way to be a foundation for the future changes that we could make,” Lusk said.
Now, county staff are leading a comprehensive effort to review the document — which has already piqued several issues.
Chris Caperton, deputy director of the county’s department of planning and development, said the plan includes “a lot of aspirational language” that appears to be “heavy-handed.”
McKay concluded that staff and board comments indicate that more time is needed for review.
“I think what’s clear here is this is going to take a while,” he said.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity encouraged staff to iron out the legalities of what developers should, could and are simply encouraged to do in Reston.
“The conflicts also make it more complicated for developers, ” Herrity said, adding that Reston is a critical economic corridor.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in southeastern Fairfax County is holding its birthday party this weekend, despite the likelihood of rain.
Jefferson Manor near Groveton is celebrating its 75th birthday tomorrow (Saturday) with a block party that will include food trucks, music, beer, a kids’ zone area, and a magician. Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay are both expected to attend.
Held on Monticello Road between Fairhaven Road and Edgehill Drive from 4-7 p.m., the block party is expected to draw about 300 attendees, even with the potential for dicey weather, Jefferson Manor Citizens Association President Derek Cole told FFXnow.
“We started the block party in 2017 just to celebrate how tight-knit our community was,” he said. “The turnout that we get speaks volumes to the community participation that we have.”
Consisting of about 550 semi-detached duplex homes, Jefferson Manor was built in 1947, as thousands of veterans returned home from World War II for jobs in the military and government.
Then covered in dairy farms, Fairfax County was a perfect place to build a home and settle with a family near enough to the urban core. Between 1940 and 1960, its population sextupled, growing from about 41,000 to nearly 249,000 people in just two decades. Those new residents needed homes fast.
A D.C. developer named Clarence W. Gosnell began buying up land across the county, including about 80 acres near Old Town Alexandria from S. Cooper Dawson, the co-owner of the well-known Penn-Daw Hotel.
Gosnell immediately went to work on the land, naming the neighborhood and the surrounding streets after president Thomas Jefferson.
“Gosnell was one of the developers who was able to put up housing quickly and affordably,” Tammy Mannarino, a local historian who recently presented at a Jefferson Manor Civic Association meeting. “And he did that by having them be partially prefabricated.”
Gosnell’s company built and installed 12 to 16 homes a month in the neighborhood, a rate only exceeded by how quickly the homes were being sold, The Washington Post reported in 1947.
“Every time they released a section of Jefferson Manor, it sold out,” Mannarino said. “They almost couldn’t build them fast enough.”
Homes were directly marketed to veterans, with Gosnell often advertising the starting price of $8,750 — about $114,000 today — as something “you can afford.”
Amenities soon sprang up to serve the budding neighborhood. Mount Eagle Elementary School (then called Penn Daw School) was built in 1949 to accommodate the new families.
However, as was the case in many county neighborhoods, there were restrictions on who could buy the homes.
The original contracts to purchase a Jefferson Manor home all contained a discriminatory covenant precluding anyone “not of the Caucasian Race” from occupying, using, selling, renting, or being given the home. The only exception was for “domestic servants.” Read More
More sidewalks might be coming to Lockheed Blvd near Hybla Valley in an effort to create a better, safer connection to Huntley Meadows Park.
Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay introduced a board matter on Tuesday (Aug. 2) calling for a portion of the leftover fiscal year 2022 budget to be used to fill a gap of about 1,500 feet of sidewalk on Lockheed Blvd leading up to the county-operated park.
Right now, there’s no sidewalk to the main entrance of Huntley Meadows Park. Adding one would make the 1,500-acre park safer and more accessible, the board matter says.
“I believe it is important that we fill that gap as soon as possible,” the board matter reads. “Not only would this make for a safer route for residents to get to Huntley Meadows, but it would also create a safer connection to the nearby Hybla Valley Elementary School.”
The school is less than a 10-minute walk from the park, but without a consistent sidewalk, the route there is inaccessible and unsafe. McKay acknowledged that student and pedestrian safety are top of mind after recent crashes.
“The idea that elementary school kids would have to cross a busy street not at a signalized intersection anywhere in two different places from the school to the park, which is a natural treasure of Fairfax County, seems to me not the message we want to be sending,” McKay said after reading the matter.
Extending the sidewalk and adding safer entrance points is not a new ask. In May, a local pedestrian and bicyclist safety organization called for protected bike lanes on Lockheed Blvd near the park.
Located less than a mile from Richmond Highway, Huntley Meadows Park is the largest park operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Established in 1975, the park has forests as well as open freshwater wetlands that have been described as a “waterfowl-filled oasis.”
There are trails, a picnic shelter, a visitor center, and a historic early 19th-century house once owned by George Mason’s grandson.
Lusk noted that the neighborhood and nearby school have one of the highest rates of students on free and reduced lunch in the county.
“Many residents [here] rely on public transportation or they are walking or biking as their primary form of transportation,” said Lusk.
Additionally, the new North Hill development and park are under construction less than a mile away from Huntley Meadows. Phase one could be completed later this year, and overall, it could bring over a thousand more residents to this portion of the Richmond Highway corridor.
The question, of course, is money. The board matter requests that the project be considered for the 2022 carryover budget, which will get a public hearing and vote on Oct. 11, but there was some debate about the project’s priority.
“We all have lots of projects that we want to put forward. We might want to have some criteria,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “We all have pedestrian projects that we are anxious to get done. Last time we looked there were a thousand [projects] on the list, so the carryover [budget] may not make a dent in that.”
Police Uses of Force Prompt Town Hall — Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office will host a virtual town hall on July 21 to discuss recent use-of-force incidents by Fairfax County police officers. Lusk, who chairs the Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee, said he shares community concerns “about both the nature of these incidents, as well as the frequency at which they are occurring.” [Rodney Lusk/Twitter]
Possible Reston Arts Center Delayed — Reston Town Center developer Boston Properties got approval to extend the deadline for when Fairfax County has to decide whether to build a new performing arts center by six months. A proffer agreement for the next phase of the center’s development allows the county to require an arts center or a park on the site along Sunset Hills Road. [Patch]
Local Students Take in New Images of Deep Space — “On Monday, the world got a look at the first image from the most powerful telescope ever launched into space, the James Webb Space Telescope…More images were released on Tuesday, and in Fairfax County, students taking part in summer learning programs got their first look with a NASA Solar System Ambassador in Burke, Virginia.” [WTOP]
Prepare for New Running Bamboo Regulations — “The effective date for a new ordinance designed to control the spread of ‘running bamboo’ is still nearly six months away, but Fairfax County’s Department of Code Compliance is already working to get property owners prepared.” [Patch]
Vienna Delivery Company Leases Warehouse — “Vienna-based LaserShip signed a lease for a full 105K SF warehouse building in Chantilly, Virginia, the company announced Tuesday. The property it leased, the Stonecroft Industrial Center, is located at 14850 Thompson Road…The lease represents an expansion of LaserShip’s Northern Virginia footprint, where it already operates in Chantilly.” [Bisnow]
Herndon Police Remind Drivers to Stop — “THIRTY citations were issued over the past two weeks for drivers failing to come to a complete stop. Stop. At red lights. At stop signs. Not only is this the law, but it keeps our town safer!” [Herndon Police/Twitter]
Mini Golf Enlivens Capital One’s Tysons Campus — “Eleven stories up, on a rooftop at the corporate campus of one of America’s biggest banks, grown adults are playing miniature golf…They’re at Perch Putt, an 18-hole mini-golf course complete with bright green Astroturf and undulating greens. It’s one of the more playful, if unexpected, amenities of the corporate landscape.” [Fast Company]
Vienna Community Group Auctions Custom Yard Signs — “Rustic Love and Vienna Arts Society, two nonprofits based in Vienna, have teamed up for an auction that launched Sunday. The auction features 20 heart signs built by Rustic Love volunteers and painted by Vienna Arts Society artists.” [Patch]
It’s Wednesday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]
Lee District has officially been consigned to the history books.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt Franconia District as the new moniker for the magisterial district that represents portions of Springfield, Franconia, Kingstowne, and Hybla Valley.
Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said many residents associate the name of the district with positive memories there, such as the sound of footsteps on the boardwalk through Huntley Meadows, visions of the old gravel pits, or pride in the history of the Laurel Grove School.
“However for many, the name Lee District evokes another set of imagery, whether by design or by accident, and we may never know by which, the name stands as a lasting monument to the most recognizable Confederate figure in history,” he said.
Based on feedback from the community, Franconia was the most agreed-upon name.
“The name Franconia has always been central to our identity,” Lusk said. “It’s a name that makes sense, it’s a name that our community has embraced and it’s a name that memorializes a place and not a person.”
Lusk’s office confirmed that the new name “went into effect immediately” after the Board’s vote, but time will be needed to implement the change on signs, websites, social media accounts, and other entities that feature the district’s old name.
The approved board matter directed the county executive to initiate the process to change the name and report back to the board on administrative changes necessary to facilitate the change and a timeline for its adoption.
The board also voted to assign staff to reach out to businesses, nonprofits, community groups and other entities that may be impacted by the change and recommend possible strategies to support them.
“The exact timeline, cost, and scope will be determined through the County Executive’s review,” Lusk’s office said by email.
Just minutes earlier, the board also unanimously voted to call a new community center west of Richmond Highway the “Hybla Valley Community Center.”
Previously home to the Mount Vernon Athletic and Tennis Club, the building was purchased by the county in 2020 to be repurposed into the multiservice center meant to be “the epicenter of basic needs requests in all of South County.”
Lusk presented the motion to name the center at 7950 Audubon Avenue after getting public input at five community engagement sessions, he said.
“This community engagement effort was intentionally designed to reduce barriers to participation, create culturally appropriate engagement settings, and ensure that participation reflected those whose lives will be impacted by the decision,” Lusk said.
The center opened to the public on April 4, with a grand opening ceremony in May. It provides recreation services, youth programs and other resources for the Hybla Valley area in the Richmond Highway corridor.
“This community center is really an amazing place only in the very early stages of realizing its full potential, but one that I think is long overdue to the community,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said.
The 2022 general election is still almost five months away, but at least one Fairfax County supervisor already has his eyes on 2023.
Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk announced yesterday (Monday) that he will seek a second term in the office, though it may bear a different name by the time voters hit the polls.
“Some of the names may have changed, but the community that makes this the only place I’d ever want to call home has remained the same,” Lusk said in the video. “By remembering who we are, by remembering where we’ve come from, by remembering the commitments that we’ve made to each other, I know that we’ll build a community that we’ll all be proud to remember.”
Representing an area west of Route 1 that includes Springfield, Franconia, Kingstowne and Hybla Valley, Lusk is the first county elected official to publicly declare his intentions for the next local election cycle.
All 10 seats on the Board of Supervisors and all 12 school board seats will be up for grabs next year, when the general election will fall on Nov. 7 with potential primaries on June 20. The ballot will also have races for the Virginia General Assembly, commonwealth’s attorney and sheriff.
Elected in 2019 to succeed Jeff McKay, who now chairs the Board of Supervisors, Lusk worked for the county for 32 years and served on the planning commission and Fairfax County Park Authority board before becoming the Lee District supervisor. He was the first African American man elected to the county board, according to his campaign website.
In his campaign announcement, Lusk notes that the Route 1 workforce development center he cited as a top priority during his first campaign came to fruition with the opening of the Lee District Community Center in early May.
He also highlights his role introducing a board matter in January 2020 proposing a co-responder model for certain 911 emergency calls, where police would be accompanied by unarmed mental and behavioral health specialists. The program was introduced as a pilot in March 2021, and funding to make it permanent was included in the most recent budget approved in May.
In a statement to FFXnow, Lusk said priorities over his first four-year term have also included expanding access to affordable housing, full funding for schools, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, criminal justice reform, and addressing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As I seek a second term, I’ll continue to champion each of these critical priorities, while leveraging those successes to build a community that is both equitable for our residents, and attractive to our business community,” Lusk said.
Supervisor Rodney Lusk will recommend renaming “Lee District” to “Franconia District” at the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).
“The time has come to change the name of Lee District,” Lusk said on Twitter over the weekend.
In a statement and video posted to his social media channels, Lusk explained that more than two years of discussions with the community revealed to him that an “overwhelming majority” of participants supported the name change.
He believes that the name Franconia is the right choice to replace Lee.
“Franconia is a name that is synonymous with our community,” he wrote. “From Franconia Road, the Franconia Springfield Metro, the Franconia Museum, and the Franconia Governmental Center, the name Fraconia has always been central to our identity. It is also a name that memorializes a place and not a person.”
My full statement on renaming Lee District to Franconia District: pic.twitter.com/nwr790No7M
— Rodney Lusk (@SupervisorLusk) June 26, 2022
Lusk will introduce a board matter at Tuesday’s meeting asking his fellow supervisors to vote in favor of the name change.
Back in March, the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee recommended renaming both the Lee and Sully Districts due to the names’ historical ties to the Confederacy and slavery.
However, the committee’s report noted that the historical record is “somewhat inconclusive” about if the Lee District is actually named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee or another member of his family. Despite that, the committee still believed the name needs to change due to the confusion it could cause if left in place.
The committee also recommended a name change for the Sully District. That is named after the Sully Historic Site, a plantation once owned by Richard Bland Lee.
“Lee named the land he inherited Sully in 1789 and for twenty years under his charge the Sully Plantation was the location of commercial activity and profit from the kidnapping, human trafficking, and abuse of over one hundred lives — men, women and children,” the report read.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith tells FFXnow they are still in the “process of gathering community feedback.” She says they held its first meeting to discuss a change earlier this month and “doesn’t want to rush” the process. There’s currently no timeline for when a name change recommendation might occur for the Sully District.
Lusk’s recommendation has already gotten at least one show of support so far, from state Sen. Scott Surovell (36).
I likewise believe that Franconia is the best new name for Lee District and applaud @SupervisorLusk for the process he utilized to arrive at this decision@KrizekForVA @Kaufax4Schools @MarkSicklesVA @SenDaveMarsden @AdamEbbin @GeorgeLBarker https://t.co/sdnhnzdlQA
— 🇺🇦Senator Scott Surovell 🇺🇦 (@ssurovell) June 26, 2022
At that moment, it’s unclear if a majority of the Board of Supervisors will vote along with Lusk to change the name from the Lee District to Franconia District, but Chairman Jeff McKay has signaled his support for such a move in the past.
A new innovation hub in the Lee District Community Center (7950 Audubon Avenue) is expected to open in May.
With the support of private partners and state and federal funds, the Workforce Innovation Skills Hub (WISH) is intended to expand job opportunities for residents living along the Richmond Highway corridor.
“With Amazon and Virginia Tech making significant investments a few miles to our north and the proximity to Fort Belvoir and their stream of contracting opportunities, the Richmond Highway Corridor is the ideal location for a workforce development program,” Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office said.
Lusk hopes the workforce training program will give residents a chance to earn a middle-class income and end generational poverty.
“The ultimate goal of the WISH is to create an accessible community hub where residents can walk to and receive training in the trades and technology jobs of the future,” he said.
The hub in Groveton received $2.4 million from the county’s coffers and is in the process of securing $800,000 in supplemental state and federal funding.
County funds were primarily used to acquire and renovate the space, including bringing the center up to code.
Lusk and his office have been working with Amazon for more than year to determine how the online retail and web services company will support the project.
So far, as part of a recent land-use application to build a data center in Springfield, Amazon plans to work with Lusk’s office on contracting related to the construction and build-out of the data center.
Amazon received the county’s blessing in February to construct a roughly 242,000-square-foot data center at 7961 Loisdale Road in Springfield.
The company will also provide the office with the number of jobs available in the data center. Program constructors will then build a model to connect job training to existing jobs in the Lee District.