From 'Wasteland' to Mixed-Use 'Mosaic'

Alison M. Rice looks at the transformation of the Washington D.C. suburb of Merrifield, Va. from an industrial-suburban wasteland to a $542 million mixed-use development.
December 22, 2012, 7am PST | Jessica Hsu
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"There are very few sites left in the country that are undeveloped and that have the density and strength of a permanent and daytime consumer base within a 10-minute drive time," said Jodie W. McLean, the president and chief investment officer for Edens. Her company is the private retail developer that has helped replace the auto body shop, fast-food restaurants, and acres of surface parking of Merrifield's past and brought in the Angelika Film Center, a 150-room Hyatt House hotel, 73,000 square feet of office space, and shops and restaurants. Her firm's project - the 31-acre Mosaic District - will be "divided into four geographic districts: fashion and retail; film and dining; market, which includes specialty food shops; and residential."

The District, which was named "to refer to the many different Northern Virginia neighborhoods that encircle Merrifield," is the center of the redevelopment. There is a one-acre park with an outdoor movie screen, specialty shops arranged by type, and a mix of national retailers and tiny local shops. Edens wanted to provide a unique shopping experience, and the firm hopes customers visit the district at least twice a week.

"As the district comes together, though," says Rice, "one piece remains stubbornly hard to fit: walkability. Intended as a pedestrian-friendly town center and less than a mile from a Metro station, Mosaic is still best reached for many visitors by car or bus, rather than on foot, because of traffic on nearby roads."

"Such a mixed bag of infrastructure takes time to convert into a walkable neighborhood," notes Rice. "Elected officials say recent road improvements intended to divert traffic away from known Merrifield bottlenecks should help. So should many of the residential projects under construction in the area, which will expand the sidewalk network and create the new street grid, they said."

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Published on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in The New York Times
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