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by Heather Mongilio — June 18, 2015 at 6:45 pm 2,789 0

Open spaces, new buildings and wider sidewalks are all part of Envision Courthouse Square, Arlington’s draft plan to create a lively square around the county courthouse.

Arlington residents were invited to the neighborhood Wednesday to see the plans for the area as well as to take a walking tour that highlighted several large changes that could come as a result of the plan.

“I would hope this would be an area, unlike Rosslyn, Clarendon or Ballston, where people can come together and celebrate events in the heart of Arlington,” Jason Beske, the project manager for Envision Courthouse, told ARLnow.com.

Under the plan, multiple new buildings could be constructed some replacing existing structures and some with preserved facades. The vision for the area — which currently includes buildings, parking lots and some small green spaces — would be similar to that of a lively open town square under the new plan.

Before that vision can be realized, should the County Board approve the plan, the county will have to work with developers and building owners to come together and help implement it.

Among changes is a possible move for county government itself. The county office building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd is not currently owned by the county — it’s owned by Vornado — and when the lease is up, the county could choose to move to a building it owns outright, Beske said during the walking tour.

One possible location for this new building would be the new South Square, which is on the south end where the current public surface parking lot sits. Parking would be provided via underground lots, as the current public surface lot is set to be converted to mostly green space — the “square.”

The plan also calls for the transit plaza adjacent to the current county offices to be redone. The new plaza, dubbed Metro Plaza after the Metro entrance, would possibly feature an open Metro entrance similar to that planned in the Rosslyn Sector Plan.

The plaza would be “something that’s kind of lively, exciting,” Beske said.

The current AMC movie theater may be redeveloped into an office building or a building with primary entertainment and retail uses. A rooftop terrace be added to the building, with a view of D.C. and the monuments. Also set for redevelopment: the small, aging Courthouse Square West office building that currently houses county emergency management offices.

The street that currently runs next to the main county office building, 15th Street N., would become a low-speed, pedestrian-centric street. It would feature plenty of street trees, widened sidewalks and possibly granite pavers.

“We want to see this street become an extension of open space,” he said. On the other side of the public parking lot, 14th Street N. would receive a similar “shared street” treatment.

Another other big open space would be the “Memorial Grove.” The large space would have a grove in one of its corners and a possible underground parking lot under it. Memorial Grove would be located in what is now part of the parking lot, across the street from the current emergency winter homeless shelter. A large open lawn area would run from Memorial Grove down to the South Square.

To the south of South Square, in what is currently a public plaza next to the Verizon building and across from Ragtime restaurant, the Envision Courthouse envisions a new building, for public use, county use or both. The building, labeled Verizon Plaza, is one of four buildings — including the aging Courthouse Square West office building, South Square and the AMC Theater site,

Outside of the Courthouse Metro entrance near the Cosi building, meanwhile, is the potential site of a promenade with wider sidewalks, which could possibly extend from Clarendon Boulevard to 14th Street. Across the street, near Ireland’s Four Courts, the county plans for main street feel, with wider sidewalks, more retail lining the street and a possible tree canopy.

While the county is looking to the future with Envision Courthouse, Beske and his team is also trying to capture the past. There are preservation elements to the plan, mostly centered around the strip of older buildings known as Lawyers’ Row. The facades of the buildings housing the emergency winter shelter, Cosi, Jerry’s Subs and Boston Market are all singled out for preservation. A new building could be on top of the existing facades, but a full preservation is also possible, particularly for Cosi building, which used to be a bank.

The county will weigh the historic value of each building in considering its redevelopment, Beske said.

The County Board is expected to consider the plan for approval at its September meeting. Some of the planned changes may be implemented in the next few years, but many of the goals are classified as long term, taking five or more years to implement, often with the cooperation of private developers.

by Heather Mongilio — June 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm 1,720 0

The County Board is considering adopting the Rosslyn Sector Plan, but first it is seeking out residents’ opinions.

The Rosslyn Sector Plan is the county’s long-term goal for the neighborhood, including a new Metro entrance, updated parks and a new pedestrian bridge. The County Board authorized two public hearings — one before the Planning Commission on July 6 and the other before the County Board meeting on July 18 — for residents to speak and ask about the new plan.

The county’s vision focuses on four key topics: parks and open space, transportation, building height and urban design.

“The vision that residents, developers, business leaders, property owners and County staff have worked together on for more than two years is truly transformational,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “Once adopted, we believe it will lead to realizing Rosslyn’s full potential. It will ensure that, as Rosslyn continues to grow and develop, it takes it rightful place as another great Arlington urban village – one where people work, live, learn and play.”

The plan comes out of efforts to move Rosslyn from a car-heavy, office-centric area to a walkable, mixed-use urban center, according to a county press release.

To do this, the planning staff have proposed a new 18th Street corridor, extending from N. Oak Street to Arlington Ridge Road. The plan follows the current recommendation to get rid of the skywalk system in Rosslyn, instead focusing pedestrian activity at ground level.

The new 18th Street corridor would be “a new central spine for Rosslyn that will improve linkages to Metro, the future Central Place plaza, and other public spaces and development,” according to the sector plan.

The plan calls for other significant traffic changes. N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Kent Street, currently one-way roads, will be converted to two-way if the sector plan is approved. Also, the Fort Myer tunnel under Wilson Boulevard — which was intended to help the flow of traffic coming over the Key Bridge from D.C. — is to be removed, according to the plan.

“The tunnel’s promotion of high vehicle speeds, highway-oriented character, and incompatibility with a desirable crosswalk of 18th Street across Fort Myer Drive at the Metro station all lead to the recommendation to remove the tunnel and replace it with an at-grade signalized intersection,” according to the plan.

Rosslyn also is looking at a new Metro entrance. The current enclosed space could be transformed into an open air entrance, similar to the entrance at the Foggy Bottom or Van Ness Metro stations. The plaza outside the entrance would extend to Fort Myer Drive and N. Moore Street.

“The Rosslyn Metro Station is centrally positioned within this public space corridor and will serve as an important center of activity and retail concentration,” according to the plan.

While the plan focuses on making Rosslyn more walkable, it also looks to redesign Gateway and Freedom Parks to fit in with the more urban city plan.

Under the plan, the county would remove the current ramp structure at Gateway Park and turn it into a more typical green park setting, with multi-use courts, more lawn space and a playground. Freedom Park will be made more accessible with small-scale recreation areas and outdoor seating for restaurants.

In addition, the plan calls for the future creation of an esplanade that would run along Rosslyn’s eastern edge, extending from Gateway Park to the River Place residential complex along I-66 and then to the Marine Corps Memorial. The esplanade would also overlook the Potomac River. From the esplanade, there would be a pedestrian/cycling bridge that would link it to the riverfront near Roosevelt Island.

While the main construction of the plan is focused on the ground level, the county is also looking to improve the overall look of Rosslyn by adjusting the current height limit to allow for variation in the skyline.

“In addition, the Rosslyn Sector Plan sets forth a new building heights policy for the RCRD that can more effectively achieve a place with great public spaces, views and view corridors, light and air between buildings, sensitive transitions, and a distinctive and dynamic skyline,” according to the plan.

by Ethan Rothstein — May 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm 4,192 0

The county’s long-term vision for Rosslyn includes an open-air Metro entrance, a pedestrian corridor through the heart of the neighborhood, a new pedestrian bridge over the Potomac River and a massive new park.

The Realize Rosslyn planning process, which begun in October 2012, has culminated in a draft Rosslyn Sector Plan, which lays out the vision for the area until 2040. That vision includes what’s being called the 18th Street Corridor, which would extend 18th Street from N. Oak Street as a pedestrian corridor with a public escalator to N. Lynn Street, and a road from there to N. Arlington Ridge Road.

“Surrounded by a high density of people and development, these spaces will collectively form a dynamic and memorable promenade weaving through the heart of Rosslyn, and could include features such as public art, festivals, chess tables, outdoor dining, and small recreation courts,” planning staff wrote on the Realize Rosslyn website. “A significant and iconic pedestrian bridge will link a new Esplanade to the Potomac Riverfront near Roosevelt Island.”

In the middle of that planned corridor would sit the Rosslyn Metro Station. As the building that sits on top of it is redeveloped, the Realize Rosslyn panel — made up of residents, business owners and county staff — envisions the enclosed entrance becomes a plaza, with a glass canopy, trees and other amenities.

This corridor would come into being in parts, with Monday Properties’ planned redevelopment of the 1400 Key Blvd and 1401 Wilson Blvd buidings and JBG Companies’ ongoing construction of its Central Place development.

The plan also calls for, by 2040, an additional 4,000-5,000 housing units in the Rosslyn Metro area, 800 of which are either under construction or approved. County planners hope to shrink the percentage of real estate currently occupied by office space, now sitting at 85 percent (with almost 30 percent vacant).

Wilson Blvd, Fort Myer Drive and Lynn Street would also undergo significant changes. Within 10 years, planners anticipate the three one-way streets to convert to two-way roads while removing the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd. Wilson, Fort Myer and Lynn would also each have two-way cycle tracks.

The pedestrian bridge to Roosevelt Island would originate from a new Rosslyn Plaza park, a potentially massive open space with recreation activities, an esplanade to the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial and access to a new Key Bridge boathouse.

Meanwhile, Rosslyn’s two biggest parks — Gateway Park and Freedom Park — would be redesigned. Gateway Park’s ramps would be removed and replaced with multipurpose courts and space for food kiosks. Freedom Park, which connects Artisphere’s building to Monday’s twin towers developments on the other side of Wilson Blvd, would become a place restaurants could place outdoor dining.

The Draft Sector Plan will go before the Long Range Planning Committee this month, with a planned hearing in June by the Arlington Planning Commission before the County Board can discuss it.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm 5,888 0

The Food Star at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive (photo via Google Maps)(Updated Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.) The Food Star grocery store and strip mall at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive is being eyed for redevelopment.

The proposed building, from developer Orr Partners, would be six stories of mixed-use development — five stories of apartments and ground floor retail. The property would have to redevelop under the Columbia Pike Commercial Form-Based Code, which calls for mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly buildings.

Orr Partners Chairman David Orr said he expects the building to have about 350 market-rate apartments, and for a grocery store and other community-oriented retail —  maybe a fast-casual restaurant or two — to occupy the ground floor. He expects to submit a form-based code application in June.

“It’s going to be really great, we’re really excited,” Orr said. His Reston-based company has already built the FDIC headquarters in Ballston and Boeing’s former headquarters in Rosslyn. “We love Arlington, and we love doing business in Arlington.”

In addition to the retail and apartments, the developer plans to include underground parking and to build a public plaza where the large surface lot is now. The plaza, Orr said, would be roughly the same size as the ones at Arlington Mill Community Center and Penrose Square.

“We believe that public plaza has an opportunity to be a wonderful game changer for Columbia Pike because of its visibility and location,” he said. “Certainly the Penrose Square plaza was wonderfully done, but we think we can take it up another notch.”

Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Executive Director Takis Karantonis is familiar with the plans, and he said the area — one of the major intersections on the Pike — is ripe for a project like this.

The massing of the planned redevelopment of the Food Star grocery store on Columbia Pike (image via CPHD)“This is a truly important intersection of the Pike and we are very interested in seeing that happen,” he told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “On the other side, we love the Food Star, it has been a staple on the Pike for a very long time. It serves three or four neighborhoods, and it will be a tough transition through the construction phase not to have a grocery store there.”

Karantonis said he would like to see the Food Star come back in the ground floor of the new building, or something similar: an affordable grocery store with a focus on ethnic foods.

The proposal is in its nascent stages, according to Urban Planner Matt Mattauszek with the county’s department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. So far, it is just a draft concept and Orr Partners is beginning to have meetings with the Form-Based Code Advisory Working Group. No official plans or proposals have been submitted to the county.

So far, the only clue as to what the development will look like is a rendering of the building’s general shape and size, submitted to CPHD, that shows a building with frontages along both George Mason Drive and the Pike. Orr said his company has retained KGD Architecture, which designed the Arlington Mill residences on Columbia Pike.

Photo, top, via Google Maps. Image, bottom, courtesy CPHD

by Ethan Rothstein — March 11, 2015 at 12:15 pm 4,964 0

Pentagon Centre, the big-box mall that counts Best Buy and Costco as tenants, could be transformed into an apartment, office and retail complex over the next half-century.

Developer Kimco Realty owns the property, which sets between S. Hayes and Fern Streets and 12th and 15th Streets S. Kimco has applied to redevelop it into six buildings in three phases.

The site, which covers 16.8 acres, was approved for redevelopment in 2008, also with a three-phase plan. Since that plan’s approval, the recession hit and Arlington’s office market has stagnated. Now, Kimco is requesting to build residential buildings first and office last, but is also asking to build more residential and less commercial than previously approved.

First, if approved, Kimco would replace the Sleepy’s store and the loading dock at the corner of S. Hayes and 12th Streets with a 25-story residential tower that would be the tallest building in Pentagon City. The tower would be built adjacent to the Pentagon City Metro station entrance.

Also in Phase I, Kimco plans to build a 10-story residential building at 15th Street S. and Hayes Street, with a seven-story parking garage along 15th Street to replace lost parking spots for Costco. The two apartment buildings would bring a combined 714 units to the area.

The office, hotel and open space components of the plan, if approved, wouldn’t come until decades later. If that construction begins as planned, the mall that holds the Best Buy and Nordstrom Rack would be demolished in about 20 years, during Phase II. Twenty or so years after that, during Phase III, the Costco would be demolished, replaced, along with its parking lot, by a hotel, office building and open space.

When completed, the nearly 17-acre property would have:

  • 606,200 square feet of office space in three buildings
  • 377,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, including a standalone, two-story retail building
  • A 38,720-square-foot, 180-room hotel
  • Two apartment buildings with 714 units combined

In addition to the 1.8 million square feet of buildings, three acres of open space would be added surrounding a new 13th Street S., along Fern Street. The developer would construct other new roads — including portions of S. Grant Street and 14th Street S. — during Phase III, where the Costco now stands.

Recently approved within steps of Pentagon Centre have been the Pentagon City Mall expansion, the massive PenPlace development, the final phases of the Metropolitan Park apartment complex and a 415-unit apartment building at 400 Army Navy Drive. If approved, the Pentagon Centre redevelopment would remove the last big-box store in the area, further cementing Pentagon City’s status as a high-rise, mixed use neighborhood.

The plan was discussed by the county’s Long Range Planning Commission in December and by the Site Plan Review Committee last month. The SPRC will meet again to discuss the proposal at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) on March 16.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 9, 2015 at 10:30 am 3,463 0

A chart showing the trends of affordable housing in Arlington since 2000In five years, there could be virtually no market-rate affordable apartments left in Arlington, according to county planning staff.

In 2000, 19,740 apartments owned by for-profit property owners in the county were affordable for someone making up to 60 percent of the region’s area median income, according to findings from the county’s three-year Affordable Housing Study. In 2013, there were 3,437 “MARKs,” as they’re called.

(“Affordable” is defined as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income.)

If the trend holds, there will be a “negligible” amount around the county by 2020, according to Russell Danao-Schroeder, senior housing planner in the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

“If you just look at that chart [above], and if you do a trend line analysis projecting that out, it’s easy to see where that goes,” Danao-Schroeder said. “It crosses zero before 2020.”

That is the reality the Arlington County Board will grapple with as it works toward adopting an Affordable Housing Master Plan in July. The affordable housing study has completed its research and staff, along with the Affordable Housing Study Working Group, released findings and recommendations last month in a draft master plan.

While affordable, market-rate housing is drying up, the county could try to kick-start committed affordable housing development to balance the scales. The county currently has 6,731 committed affordable units (CAFs) rented or leasing, with another 220 being developed, less than 10 percent of total apartment stock.

The draft master plan sets a goal of making 17.7 percent of all housing units in the county affordable at 60 percent AMI. If county projections hold true, that would mean asking developers to build 15,800 CAFs in the next 25 years. Even Danao-Schroeder, who helped draft the plan, admitted the goal isn’t pragmatic.

“That 17.7 percent number is what we would need to have sufficient housing for households at all income levels,” he told ARLnow.com on Friday. “That’s an awful lot. It’s going to be hard to hit that, but that’s the mark that we need to aim for.”

Members of the County Board have time and again reaffirmed their commitment to affordable housing, and a county-run survey of Arlington residents indicates the community approves of the Board’s efforts. In 2012, the Board launched the study with a charge of creating “a shared community vision of Arlington’s affordable housing as a key component of our community sustainability.”

The occupations of residents in Arlington's committed affordable housingProponents of affordable housing often say it’s necessary for Arlington to have places for people like teachers, policemen and firefighters to live within the county. However, according to a survey of 336 CAF residents — 5 percent of the county’s CAF population, “a fairly large sample size” Danao-Schroeder said — only 1.8 percent work in education. Of those respondents, none were Arlington teachers or classroom aides.

There is no data for public safety employees, CPHD staff said. If any live in CAFs, they would be among the 6.3 percent who responded “other” to the survey.

“Arlington County pays their teachers well and pays their public safety people well,” Danao-Schroeder said. “Other areas in other service sectors that we all depend upon in our daily lives are the primary clients and tenants of affordable units.”

The largest industry represented in CAFs is restaurant and food service at 16.7 percent. Construction workers account for 11 percent of CAF residents, with office workers like receptionists in third place at 9.2 percent, followed by taxi and other drivers at 8.3 percent.

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by Ethan Rothstein — February 24, 2015 at 11:10 am 2,362 0

Rosslyn Highlands Park — a narrow parcel of open space, a basketball court and a playground on Key Blvd — could be sold to a developer in exchange for a new fire station.

In a Nov. 8 presentation to the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) working group, Penzance, which owns the office building at 1555 Wilson Blvd, outlined a proposal that would redevelop the county-owned site — which includes Arlington Fire Station 10 — with three buildings and open space in the middle.

Last week, county staff released a draft plan to sell the site to Penzance, with the developer building a new fire station on the site, a landscaped public plaza and an extension of N. Pierce Street to 18th Street. On the property, Penzance proposes a 17-story office building fronting Wilson Blvd, a 24-story residential building along 18th Street N. and a 27-story residential building along the eastern edge of parcel.

The park is part of the area covered by the WRAPS group, a county-led commission discussing the future of the area in between 18th Street N., N. Quinn Street, Wilson Blvd and the 1555 Wilson Blvd property line. The development would replace Fire Station 10 and sit adjacent to the new H-B Woodlawn building at the Wilson School site, expected to be complete in September 2019.

The proposal is already drawing concern from some interested parties, including the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission and some members of the WRAPS working group. Paul Holland serves on both groups and spoke about his concern before the Arlington County Board Saturday morning, with several supporters dressed in green shirts — many recycled from the “Friends of TJ Park” group’s efforts — standing behind him.

Holland said that county staff’s presentation to the WRAPS group last week proposed selling the county’s land to Penzance to develop the plot.

“The only stakeholder getting what they want out of this process is the private developer, and this equates to public land for private good,” Holland said. “Selling parkland is a dangerous precedent that threatens publicly owned parks and open space throughout the county.”

Earlier this month, county staff released a resident feedback study about how best to use this parcel of land. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed preferred an option that keeps the Rosslyn Highlands Park footprint and shrinks Penzance’s proposal to the confines of its current plot of land.

“I attended our meeting [last] Thursday, hoping to see a proposal that captured the feedback of our community members: the desire for large, consolidated open space and ample park and recreation space that can serve this underserved community,” Holland said. “Unfortunately, this was not the case.”

“Instead, staff presented the working group with a plan that reduces the size of Rosslyn Highlands Park by more than two thirds,” he continued, “replaces cherishes green space with yet another paved plaza that supports a developer, and ignores the neighborhood’s significant open space needs.”

County staff said Fire Station 10 can’t be placed where the residents want it — on the property owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, across 18th Street — because of conflicts with school traffic. Staff also said N. Pierce Street needs to be extended, not the resident-preferred plan of extending N. Ode Street to the east. Those factors prompted staff to recommend selling the land to Penzance.

The dispute appears similar — right down to the T-shirts — over the battle for open space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School that left the School Board scrambling for alternatives. County Board members told Holland and his supporters on Saturday that they might have to sacrifice some open space for other county needs.

“We can do anything we want, but we can’t do everything,” Board member Libby Garvey said, according to InsideNova. “We all want different things — they’re all good things — but how is it going to balance? … We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to start setting priorities. It’s not going to be an easy conversation.”

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by Ethan Rothstein — January 2, 2015 at 11:10 am 1,861 0

Mary Hynes at the Jan. 1, 2015 County Board organizational meeting

The Arlington County Board’s chief priority for 2015 will be a new, broad plan to solve the county’s school capacity and land shortage problems.

New Board Chair Mary Hynes announced yesterday that the County Board and School Board are launching a joint study to assess Arlington’s facility needs and solutions.

The County Board’s annual New Year’s Day meeting has traditionally been used by the incoming County Board chair to announce the new year’s political agenda, and this year was no different. Hynes said “we must develop systemic strategies to meet our array of community facility needs rather than address any particular need or any particular site in isolation,” and introduced the county’s plan for the study.

In the coming year, Hynes said, each board will select members of Arlington’s residential and business community to be on the committee for the “Arlington Community Facilities Study — a Plan for the Future.” The committee will determine criteria and needs for facilities planning and to develop a framework for the county’s 2016 Capital Improvements Plan.

“I believe we are always better when we listen to each other, seek to understand the breadth of the challenges we are facing and work together to adjust our course,” Hynes said. “Our framework will acknowledge that, as our population grows, change is unavoidable; that challenges loom as we work to reinvigorate our economy; and that the reality of our physical space limits some possible solution sets.”

Hynes said the committee will address the following questions:

  • For the foreseeable future, what are our facility needs for schools, fire stations, recreation, and transportation vehicle and other storage?
  • How do we pay for these needs?
  • What criteria should we use to help us decide where to locate them?
  • In the context of changing demographics and economics, what opportunities and challenges are there in our aging affordable and workforce multi-family housing stock?
  • What do changes in the Federal government presence and the residential and private commercial marketplace mean for County revenues?

Hynes and County Board member John Vihstadt — elected twice in 2014 while presenting himself as an alternative to longtime Board members Hynes, Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada — will serve as the Board’s liaisons to the study committee. The School Board will also have two liaisons to the committee.

“People talk about tension or discord on the Board, but I don’t look at it that way,” Vihstadt said in his year-opening remarks. “We have our disagreements, heated at times. We may have different perspectives, and it is right to air those perspectives … But I’d like to think that, as a collective body, we are working better together and being more productive than our federal and state counterparts across the river and down Interstate 95.”

The Board and School Board will appoint members of the committee later this month, according to a county press release. The committee will answer the above questions, Hynes said, with the understanding that “significant new funding is unlikely” and that “no new land is being created.”

Full details of the facilities study and plan will be made available shortly, Hynes said.

Affordable housing will again be a key priority for the County Board. Along with the facilities study, Hynes highlighted affordable housing and “business vibrancy” as her other two priorities, and new Vice Chair Walter Tejada said affordable housing will be his top priority once again.

“I will redouble my unwavering commitment to supporting affordable housing and maintaining Arlington’s diversity in these challenging times,” Tejada said. “This is a necessary effort to help secure our future as a successful community.”

Tejada, Libby Garvey, Vihstadt and Fisette all noted that securing a new transit plan for Columbia Pike and the Route 1 corridor in Crystal City is a must in the near future.

by ARLnow.com — November 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm 5,540 0

Changes are coming to the plaza surrounding the Ballston Metro station.

Arlington County is in the process of designing improvements to the plaza and gathering public input. The improvements are intended to reduce bus congestion, enhance pedestrian safety, prepare for future population growth and make the plaza more functional and aesthetically attractive.

Metrorail ridership is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent at the station between 2010 and 2020, while bus ridership is expected to increase 20 percent. Cyclist use of the plaza, currently a relatively small percentage of transportation uses, is expected to rise by 200 percent during that time period.

Plans so far include increased bike parking, new bus stops and new sidewalk cafes. The plans call for moving tree planters closer to the curb to improve pedestrian circulation and enhance retail viability.

A public meeting about the changes was held at Arlington Public Library earlier this week. Residents were generally supportive, but objected to a proposal to narrow a side street that’s currently clogged with bus and taxi traffic.

Project engineering is expected to wrap up next fall, with construction beginning in early 2016, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet. Separately, the county also has a long-range plan for a second Ballston Metro station entrance.

After the jump, a list of goals for the project, from the county’s public presentation.

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by Ethan Rothstein — July 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm 3,063 0

Courthouse Square Concept A Courthouse Square Concept B Courthouse Square Concept C

(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The large surface parking lot between the Arlington County Justice Center and Courthouse Plaza appears destined to become open, green space at some point in the future.

Last night, county planners presented three concepts to the community as part of the Envision Courthouse Square outreach process. All of the concepts included using the space the surface parking lot occupies as a sort of town green, with pedestrian and bicycle paths crisscrossing the area in different patterns.

The workshop last night was the last in-person chance the community will have for significant input before staff from Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development drafts a Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the community in the fall and presented to the Arlington County Board this winter.

Moving forward, the county will plan on placing parking underground while “retaining minimal surface parking,” according to CPHD Principal Urban Designer and Planner Jason Beske. There are no plans for buildings on the north edge of the current parking lot to preserve the square, and 14th Street and 15th Street between Courthouse Road and N. Uhle Street will both remain open to vehicular traffic.

Three “big ideas” were brought before those in attendance, which included the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group and county staff. The first, Concept A, calls for 3.9 acres of open space, a pedestrian promenade connecting 15th and 14th Streets N. in front of the AMC Courthouse movie theater and converts 15th Street between N. Courthouse Road and Clarendon Blvd into a shared pedestrian, bike and vehicle corridor.

Concept B, pictured above in the center, calls for the pedestrian promenade to be diagonal from the current Strayer Building — viewed as a target for high-rise redevelopment — to the Verizon Plaza building adjacent to the building that contains the Gold’s Gym. This plan calls for 4.2 acres of open space and includes a pocket park between Courthouse Plaza and N. Veitch Street.

Concept C, pictured above on the right, calls for 3.15 acres of open space and a more east-west alignment of paths and streets in the design area.

The plans for building redevelopment vary significantly among the three plans. Concept A calls for the two buildings with 15th Street frontages to be redeveloped at heights of 153-180 feet for the Strayer building — at the intersection with Clarendon Blvd — and 300 feet for the Landmark Block, at the intersection of with Courthouse Road. It also calls for retail in front of the AMC theater and a new building up to 180 feet tall next to it.

Concept B flips the proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark blocks from Concept A, calls for the redevelopment of the AMC theater into a county or private building up to 180 feet tall and a three-to-five story “cultural building” at the Verizon Plaza site.

Concept C includes the most significant redevelopment: a “market shed” next to the AMC theater, the same proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark block and two, 10-12 story buildings along 14th Street N., with the option to preserve the current theater or include a separate cultural use. The Verizon Plaza would be the site for a new, 300-foot high-rise building.

“Think of these plans as a kit-of-parts,” CPHD staff wrote in its presentation last night. “All of the big ideas are open for your feedback. Feedback results will inform us of the community’s preferences as we take the next steps to combine ideas and test their feasibility. The goal is to create a single, preferred plan that carries our shared vision forward.”

CPHD officials said an online survey will be posted shortly for community members unable to attend last night to weigh in on the three concepts.

Images via Arlington CPHD

by Ethan Rothstein — April 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,730 0

Courthouse Square map(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Arlington County surveyed more than 250 residents, workers and visitors to Courthouse Square to assess public opinion of the area’s future.

The survey was conducted as part of the county’s “Envision Courthouse Square” initiative, which is trying to get the public involved in the process of planning the future development of the 9-acre area surrounding the county’s large surface parking lot.

That lot in particular was the subject of many survey respondent’s suggestions, who desire to see it become an underground parking lot with a different use for the surface area up top.

“I live in the neighborhood, so for me the parking is a waste,” one respondent said. “However I recognize the need for parking near the courthouse and government buildings to serve other residents of Arlington. I would think that an underground parking structure with a public space on top would be the best way to balance these needs.”

“Please underground the parking,” another said. “The surface parking detracts from the neighborhood’s streetscape. We should create a walkable environment that encourages visitors to utilize Arlington’s multimodal options.”

Courthouse Square use preference surveyMore than 13 percent of respondents listed “market events” as their preferred future use of open space in Courthouse Square, followed by 12.2 percent in favor of outdoor movies and evening events. Social gathering and social seating received 11.7 and 9.8 percent of the vote, respectively.

When asked if public events, celebrations and demonstrations should be encouraged in Courthouse Square, 73.1 percent of those asked answered, “yes,” but some said they worried the events would benefit only those from other areas.

“Courthouse Square should be a place for those who live there or nearby to enjoy the open space,” one response said, “not an area for out of towners or others to use to hold political events.”

Of the “yes” answers, many cited Courthouse’s civic identity as a reason to encourage First Amendment expression in the open spaces.

“It should be celebrated as THE civic space in Arlington,” one answer said. Another respondent said only, “Because America, that’s why.”

A majority, 53 percent of respondents said Courthouse Square should be a “beacon” for all of Arlington, while 29 percent said it should be mostly designed for the surrounding neighborhood. Only 17 percent said it should be designed for use by the entire D.C. metro area or region.

“Courthouse does not currently have much of neighborhood feel,” said one of the “neighborhood” respondents. “It is nice to feel some smaller community in a large city. New York City neighborhoods have this and it makes them unique. It also draws people from other places to experience their unique aspects.”

“We all have plenty of regional attractions,” said a respondent who thought Courthouse should be designed for all of Arlington. “[We] need to develop sense of place — Arlington specific, beyond just being across river from D.C.”

Said another: “Arlington needs a town center. An identity. A place people can say ‘I’ll meet you on the town square.’ Arlington lacks that now — and I think that harms our identity and cohesiveness.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 14, 2014 at 11:35 am 1,372 0

Rosslyn skyline at dusk(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) The Arlington County Board took a step forward in setting a vision for the future of Rosslyn on Saturday.

The Board approved the the framework for its planned Rosslyn Sector Plan Update. It’s an outline for a plan that when finished and approved, will help move Rosslyn from its auto-oriented, commercial feel to what the County Board hopes will be a mixed-use hub of street-level activity.

Among the components of the framework the Board approved this weekend were developing more housing in central Rosslyn, studying turning Ft. Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street into two-way streets, creating a full 18th Street corridor to remove the “superblocks” between 19th Street N. and Wilson Blvd, creating an “esplanade” and connecting the open spaces in the area.

The 18th Street alignment was the source of some dispute between Rosslyn property owners last month, and the framework left the final alignment of the pedestrian and bicycle corridor to be determined. Tad Lunger, a lawyer representing the owner of the Ames Center at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive. Lunger, spoke at Saturday’s meeting.

“This process, which lasted for over a year, resulted in many of the framework plan’s issues to remain unresolved and a source of anxiety to many stakeholders in Rosslyn,” Lunger said. “As a result, most major issues were not really addressed until the past month’s public portion of the process.”

The plans to turn Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive into two-way streets also concerned residents of the area, who feel it could have traffic implications for the neighborhoods.

“The change of Lynn Street and Ft. Myer Drive to two lanes going in each direction from their current four lanes is probably a benefit to Rosslyn,” said Radnor-Ft. Myer Heights Civic Assocation President Stan Karson, “but it could have unintended consequences to the residents of the nearby area because of the possible and probable backup in the area.”

Among other goals set by the framework:

  • Making Rosslyn a more walkable neighborhood
  • Adding building density — especially housing density — in central Rosslyn while maintaining “sensitive transitions” to lower density on the edges
  • Encouraging “more varied building facades”
  • Enhancing connectivity among Rosslyn’s parks and green space, including additional connections to the Potomac waterfront
  • Working with WMATA on plans for a second Rosslyn Metro station
  • “Preserving the potential” for connecting D.C.’s planned Georgetown-to-Union Station streetcar line to Rosslyn
  • Narrowing excessively wide streets by building wider sidewalks and more bike lanes

County staff will now take the framework and develop the specifics of the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. The public will continue to have input through the Realize Rosslyn process, the county said.

File photo

by Ethan Rothstein — March 19, 2014 at 10:30 am 2,796 0

Courthouse Square mapArlington is asking residents and interested parties to participate in a 10-month community planning process to shape the future of the county’s civic center in the Courthouse neighborhood.

The first community planning workshop for “Envision Courthouse Square” will be held at Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd) in the cafeteria on Wednesday, March 26.

The county has dubbed a 9-acre area around the county’s large surface parking lot “Courthouse Square.” A mix of county- and privately-owned land and buildings, Courthouse Square could potentially be transformed into a mix of new developments, roads and open space.

“We are looking to the community to help us plan an extraordinary civic center that will not only house County government, but will provide a great public space to serve Arlingtonians for generations,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release.

The effort, the county says, will be the most comprehensive look at the future of Courthouse since the 1993 Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum. The Courthouse Square Planning and Urban Design Study Working Group, formed by County Board action in October 2013, will take the public’s suggestion and formulate it into a plan moving forward.

The five areas the working group, and the community, will evaluate are open space, building location and design, circulation (moving cars, pedestrians and bicycles through the area), community resources and sustainability.

The working group, made up of residents, business owners and community leaders and chaired by Planning Commissioner Nancy Iacomini, is expected to have recommendations for the County Board by the end of 2014.

by ARLnow.com — March 17, 2014 at 10:45 am 1,039 0

Courthouse snow (Photo courtesy @mindpivot)

Irish PM Visits Shirlington — Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny visited Samuel Beckett’s Irish Pub (2800 S. Randolph Street) in Shirlington over the weekend to watch an Irish rugby game. The Taoiseach, as the position of Irish prime minister is also called, is in the U.S. celebrating the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. [Facebook, The Independent]

County Board Approves Ashlawn Addition Revision — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a revised plan for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School but not before making Arlington Public Schools officials explain how the project went wrong. Local residents have complained about several aspects of the plan, including tree removal the building of a parking lot. [InsideNoVa]

‘Intersection of Doom’ Left Out of Rosslyn Planning — A draft Rosslyn sector plan framework doesn’t include any solutions for the so-called “intersection of doom” — the intersection of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway that has been the site of numerous pedestrian and bicyclist vs. vehicle accidents. Some believe a pedestrian tunnel or bridge may be the best solution for the busy intersection. [Greater Greater Washington]

County Board Approves New Synthetic Field Surface — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved up to $701,000 to replace a 10-year-old synthetic turf field at Wakefield High School. [Sun Gazette]

Photo courtesy @mindpivot

by Ethan Rothstein — February 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm 3,188 0

Air Rights mockupThe Arlington County Board could approve a study into the sale of air rights over I-66 to private developers this weekend.

The state Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) announced in July that it was reaching out to developers to gauge interest in leasing VDOT’s air space over I-66, east of N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, and over the East Falls Church Metro station.

According to county staff, private developers have expressed enough interest that the county wants to further study the plan. An initial study will be rolled into an amended contract with a planning and preservation firm that is already working on the Realize Rosslyn sector plan update. Depending on the outcome of the initial study, the county could fund more study in the future before a decision is reached to lease the air rights.

The previous contract with the firm had been for $493,544, and the County Board is likely to approve an additional $290,706 for not only assisting county staff with the air rights study, but also for an increased role in Realize Rosslyn.

Realize Rosslyn, a planned update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan, has been in the planning stages since 2011. A Board-appointed panel has been charged with sorting through the community concerns and developing the framework for the future direction of Rosslyn development. The panel was initially supposed to meet six times annually, but it has increased its scope of work and has met closer to 22 times annually.

A framework of the sector plan is expected to go before the Board this April, and county staff hope a full new Rosslyn Sector Plan will be complete by November.

Image via OTP3

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