The Town of Vienna is seeking funding from Fairfax County to help fund a plan to address vacancies plaguing Maple Avenue.
The town approached the county earlier this year to split the costs of an economic development strategy and market study totaling $100,000, Scott Sizer from the Department of Economic Initiatives said. The town set aside its $50,000 half when it approved its fiscal year 2020 budget.
“Primarily they are concerned with some of the vacancy rates that they are seeing, particularly in the retail properties along Maple Avenue,” Sizer told the Board of Supervisors during a Budget Committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday).
The town has a 15% vacancy rate with 138 vacant spaces — 68 of which are on Maple Avenue, Sizer said.
The new strategy and study — which could take up to 9-12 months to complete — are meant to revitalize Maple Avenue and find more efficient use of resources to address the vacancies, along with discovering how to aid business recruitment and place-making strategies, Sizer said.
“Frankly retail vacancies are a problem all over the county,” Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth said at the meeting. “We tend to have come up with a formula of mixed-use that has something above but always ground floor retail and not always is it sustainable.”
Smyth said that the vacancies are not just an issue for Vienna, urging her fellow board members to look “at this on a bigger scale… we need to get a better grip on what’s working.”
The town has already started some efforts to revitalize local businesses. The Town of Vienna created a new economic development manager position earlier this year and is currently recruiting the position, Sizer said.
County staff reviewed the proposal in June and recommend that the county provide the funding.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust agreed with the staff’s recommendation, calling the funding “a smart investment for the county.”