SFDC seeks to “reimagine shopping centers” with parklet concept


Mount Vernon Plaza parklet rendering (Credit: Federal Realty/SFDC)

It was well over a year ago that Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation (SFDC) Executive Director Evan Kaufman first contacted Federal Realty — property manager for Mount Vernon Plaza on Richmond Highway — about the possibility of creating some community space in an underused section of the shopping center’s parking lot.

Working closely with SFDC board member Brad Bartell, a registered landscape architect and designer, Kaufman delivered to Federal Realty sample design concepts for a parklet — a small seating area or green space that serves as a public amenity on or alongside a sidewalk. The initial thought was that local businesses could be approached about sponsoring or funding the project.

In the end, the property management firm fully bought into the concept, moving the target location for the parklet to the outdoor dining space behind Moe’s Southwest Grill and Limon Pollo a la Brasa, and opting to finance the entire project. The work zone has been cordoned off, and construction is set to begin this month, according to Federal Realty. Ultimately, the new community space, scheduled to open this summer, will feature green space and amenities for dining and socializing.

Metal fencing surrounds the construction zone for the parklet.

Once complete, SFDC plans to activate the space with programming like live music, movies and artwork, said Kaufman, adding that additional space can be closed off for community events. He’s also looking at the possibility of enabling people to use QR codes to order food from restaurants throughout the shopping center.

Kaufman said he sees the project as a launching pad for similar projects at other shopping centers along the Richmond Highway corridor.

“It’s the beginning of how we start to reimagine older shopping centers and make them more community-oriented and attractive,” he said. “Federal Realty has been a great partner; our public/private partnership is resulting in a good amenity for the community.”

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