(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
(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.”
More 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.”
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.
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.
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
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
Arlington will play a pivotal role in the regional economy with the coming of the Silver Line, suggests Metro planning director Shyam Kannan.
Speaking at GMU’s Va. Square campus last week, Kannan said that the Silver Line and development around Tysons Corner will make the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor the economic “fulcrum” of the D.C. area. Development pressure — particularly demand for new apartments and condos — “only becomes more pronounced” with the Silver Line, he said, thanks to our central location between the “downtowns” of the District and Tysons Corner.
That should come as a welcome bit of prognostication for Arlington County, which has been fretting about economic competition with a newly Metro-accessible Tysons Corner.
The Silver Line, however, will hasten the necessity to build a second Potomac River crossing between Rosslyn and the District. Already, service adjustments are putting a squeeze on the Blue Line through Rosslyn, reducing train frequency and increasing crowding. Metro envisions building a second Rosslyn Metro station, which will connect with a new Metro line through Georgetown via a second Potomac River tunnel. That will help alleviate the increasingly problematic “bottleneck” between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
Kannan acknowledged that overcrowding and frequent equipment breakdowns are a problem, but said Metro is working to solve both.
“For those of you who have experienced the service disruptions… you’ve seen that there are impacts to our daily lives,” he said. “Metro needs to continuously invest in its resources.”
Another “long, long range plan” is to build an express line on the Orange Line which will bypass the R-B corridor, Kannan said. And South Arlington was not left out of Metro’s plans: a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is being proposed.
All of this will come at a cost. Kannan made sure to emphasize, for the Arlington officials in the audience, that Arlington and other local jurisdictions will either need to increase their contributions to Metro in order to fund its long-range capital plans, or help the agency obtain a dedicated funding stream — i.e. some sort of a regional tax.
“The question as a region we have to ask ourselves is, ‘are we okay going into the middle of the 21st century with a transit system that functions the same way it functioned in 1976?” he asked. “I don’t think that really spells economic strength or prosperity or livability.”
“Arlington has been a great partner,” Kannan said. “Metro is hitching its wagon to Arlington County. What bet are you willing to make now?”
The plans discussed by Kannan are a long way off, likely a decade or much longer. In the meantime, Kannan says Metro hopes to increase the capacity of its increasingly crowded rail system — which is “busting at the seams” — by switching from a combination of 6- and 8-car trains to all 8-car trains. But even that seemingly simple solution is proving to be an expensive uphill battle.
“We’re fighting hand to hand combat right now to make sure we just have the funding to keep the system going and to get to 8-car trains,” he said.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in ARLbiz, our weekly local business e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
Another Military Daycare Worker Accused of Abuse — Another Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall daycare worker has been accused of abuse, just three months after another daycare abuse scandal broke at the base. This time, a daycare worker is accused of hitting a three-year-old child with a seat cushion. [WJLA]
Crystal City Plan Wins National Award – The Crystal City Sector Plan has won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Achievement Award for Innovation in Economic Planning and Development. “This ambitious, creative plan is already beginning to make Crystal City an even better place to live, work and play, and to help Arlington meet the serious challenges posed by BRAC,” said Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Wine Walk This Weekend — Crystal City will host its annual “1K Wine Walk” this weekend. All but one “heat” on Saturday is sold out, but tickets are still available for most time slots on Sunday. The “1K Beer Walk” will take place two weekends from now. Disclosure: Event organizer Washington Wine Academy is an ARLnow.com advertiser. [Washington Wine Academy]
Seeking ‘Women of Vision’ Nominees – Arlington County’s Commission on the Status of Women is seeking nominations for the 2013 Women of Vision Awards. “The awards are given to individuals who demonstrate a strong commitment to women’s issues, and have, over time, developed and communicated their vision for women and engaged community members and other leaders in order to realize this vision,” the county said on its website. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Airpolonia
FCVFD Donating Ambulance to Sandy-Stricken Community — The Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department is donating its reserve ambulance to the community of Island Park, New York, which was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. Today, volunteer firefighters will be driving the 2002 Freightliner ambulance up to Island Park, where it will replace an ambulance lost by the Island Park Volunteer Fire Department during the storm.
County Kicks Off Rosslyn Planning Process — Arlington County has begun an effort to create a comprehensive new long-range plan for Rosslyn. Dubbed “Realize Rosslyn,” the plan will seek to “transform this 1960s car-centric area to one of our region’s great urban centers.” Through a civic engagement process, the county will create “an enhanced urban design framework,” refine and improve transportation options, recommend a new “building heights strategy” and develop “a more cohesive, functional parks and open space network.” [Arlington County]
Officials: No Plan to Sell Reeves Farm — County officials say there’s no plan to sell the historic Reeves farm, despite reports on WAMU and in the Arlington Connection newspaper suggesting it might be heading to the auction block. “The board is not interested in selling the farmhouse at this point in time,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [Sun Gazette]
Board Updates Special Events Policy — The Arlington County Board on Saturday voted unanimously to update the county’s special events and demonstrations policy. The new policy “encourages such events while ensuring that the County recovers its support costs,” the county said. [Arlington County]
Dems Planning for the Next Campaign — “The campaign for 2013 begins tomorrow,” the chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee told local Democrats at the committee’s meeting Wednesday night. Next year there will be a gubernatorial election in Virginia and House of Delegates races in Arlington, among other races. Arlington Democrats ran the table on Tuesday, winning every race, with the exception of a state constitutional amendment question. [Sun Gazette]
Bergmann’s Discussion Deferred — The Arlington Planning Commission was forced to defer consideration of a proposed 10-story redevelopment of the Bergmann’s Dry Cleaning site after Hurricane Sandy delayed the mailing of notices to local residents. The Waverly Hills Civic Association, located about a mile from the development, has expressed opposition to it. [Arlington Mercury]
Tech Tutoring at Library — From iPads to social networks to computer software, the Aurora Hills Branch Library is offering 45-minute one-on-one tech tutoring sessions for residents. Appointments are now being taken for Monday, Dec. 3. [Arlington Public Library]
The Crystal City Streetcar Project would build a new streetcar line to run from the Pentagon City Metro station to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. Unlike the Pike streetcar project, which hopes to win federal funding, the funding for the Crystal City streetcar is more or less in place, and will come from a Crystal City tax increment financing area (TIF).
Arlington County is now planning to hold a public meeting to discuss the project. The forum will be held at the Crystal Park Condominium meeting room at 1805 Crystal Drive, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 13.
“As part of the Crystal City Streetcar Project, Arlington County is studying the environmental effects and developing conceptual engineering for a streetcar line connecting Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Potomac Yard,” the county said in a media advisory. “At the community forum, County representatives will introduce the project, describe the ongoing planning efforts, collect comments and answer questions. The public is encouraged to attend and learn about this new phase of transit.”
Those with questions or language interpretation requests can email email@example.com.
As part of its recommendations for revising the county sign ordinance, the Arlington Planning Commission is recommending a ban on new signs placed higher than 40 feet on building walls, according to the Arlington Mercury.
If the recommendation is ultimately adopted by the County Board, it would effectively ban all new high-rise rooftop signs — popular with developers and businesses, especially in high-density commercial zones like Rosslyn and Crystal City.
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Flickr pool photo by Pderby
Arlington County’s vision for Columbia Pike would result in 10,000 new housing units being added to the corridor by 2040.
County planners are currently putting the finishing touches on the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, a sweeping vision for the Pike that seeks to transform the area into a more urban, walkable, transit-oriented community. The plan calls for taller buildings along the Pike — up to 10 stories — and for the replacement of some existing surface parking lots with new infill development (and underground parking). It also calls for streetcar service and stops along the Pike and enhanced local bus service in the neighborhoods around the Pike.
In total, the plan projects that more than 10,000 new market rate and committed affordable housing units will be added to the Pike by 2040. By design, the plan calls for “a wider mix of incomes” in the various areas along the Pike.
“The Plan seeks to balance a range of housing affordability, improved forms of buildings and open spaces, and the preservation of historically significant buildings,” according to a draft of the neighborhoods plan. “The result is a comprehensive vision that targets redevelopment along the Columbia Pike frontages and areas further off the Pike in the eastern and western sections.”
While the plan calls for the preservation of affordable housing, it would result in the elimination of market rate affordable housing for those making 60 percent of less than Area Median Income (AMI). Under the plan, 60 percent AMI market rate housing would drop from 2,917 units today to zero units by 2040. Market rate housing for 80 percent AMI (those making 60 to 80 percent of AMI) would increase from 3,213 to 4,100. Meanwhile, committed affordable housing would increase from 1,120 to 4,300 for 60 percent AMI, and from 84 to 600 for 80 percent AMI.
Much of the added committed affordable housing would be funded by developers; Arlington County would provide added housing density allowances in exchange for either committed affordable housing within new developments or a contribution to the county’s affordable housing investment fund.
The plan specifically calls for more residential development and retail space along Columbia Pike and S. Orme Street in the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood near the eastern end of the Pike. Single-family homes and rowhouses would be maintained along Ode and Oak streets, according to the plan.
The plan also includes a vision for a greener, more aesthetically-pleasing look for the Columbia Pike corridor, along with wider sidewalks and better route options for cyclists.
“New streets and bicycle connections, particularly running east and west, offer more circulation options for neighborhoods and make traveling along the Pike safer and more pleasant,” according to the plan. “Wider sidewalks, residential buildings set back from the sidewalk, and more trees will provide a boulevard experience that will be a contrast to the commercial areas.”
Arlington County is hoping to accomplish its Neighborhoods Plan vision through the use of zoning tools like Form Based Code and density awards for property owners who develop according to the plan.
The Neighborhoods Plan was developed with resident input via numerous public planning sessions, workshops and discussions. A public hearing on the plan will be held next month.
“Change is underway along the Pike,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, in a statement. “Through the hard work and careful planning of a lot of neighborhood leaders, community members and county staff, we’re beginning to see a more pedestrian-friendly Pike emerge — a Pike served by great transit, that offers a vibrant mix of retail, residential and commercial development and public spaces that will bring people together.”
Hynes continued: “The Neighborhoods Plan helps ensure that, even as the Pike changes, the things that we all love about it — the mix of housing affordable to people of various incomes and all walks of life, the sense of community and of history, the strong neighborhoods — continue to thrive.”
A pair of bocce courts may soon be coming to a small strip of green space near Ballston Common Mall.
Arlington County park planners have proposed a set of improvements to a barren, triangular park at the corner of N. Randolph Street and N. Glebe Road, adjacent to the Ballston public parking garage.
The proposal includes two side-by-side bocce courts, benches, a handicap-accessible walkway, bike parking, meadow plantings and a designated food truck/cart area. The cost of the improvements is estimated at $150,000. The park design is described as temporary, and is intended to be “easily… displaced if a long-term use is identified.”
Park planners met with community members on Tuesday to discuss the proposal. The final design for the park is expected to be firmed up by early summer, with construction beginning in late summer or early fall.
The forthcoming development on the Bergmann’s Cleaning site on Lee Highway — still in the planning stages — may include a MOM’s Organic Market, according to an email obtained by ARLnow.com.
The project has been evolving as developer McCaffrey Interests responds to neighborhood input and objections to the project. Whereas just a couple of months ago the project was to include a specialty grocery and 13,500 square feet of other retail, it now includes just the grocery store, with the retail replaced by 15 row houses along N. Veitch and N. Uhle Streets. The change is expected to reduce traffic around the development.
The project still includes a 10-story, 166-unit, LEED Gold-certified, glass-covered apartment building, complete with a fitness center and swimming pool on the penthouse level. The current plan, which will be discussed at a Site Plan Review Committee meeting at 7:00 tonight, also includes 222 spaces of surface and underground parking for residents and grocery store customers.
In an email to its members, the local North Highlands Civic Association said McCaffrey expects that a MOM’s Organic Market will move into the grocery store space once the project is completed. The store may also have some sort of cafe component, to make up for the lack of other retail within the development. County staff have previously expressed skepticism about a specialty grocery store at the site, saying the area is already well-served by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
MOM’s currently has a location in Alexandria and is expected to open a location in Falls Church, but the local chain does not have an Arlington presence yet.
As part of the development, McCaffrey has agreed to several community amenities, including improvements to nearby McCoy Park, a modification to the adjacent Custis Trail, and 8 on-site affordable apartments. McCaffrey Interests is responsible for a number of notable local developments, including Georgetown Centre in D.C. and Market Common Clarendon in Arlington.