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Virginia Tech Students, County Planners Work to Reimagine Rosslyn Waterfront

(Updated at 4:40 p.m)

Students at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center have joined Arlington County planners in brainstorming ideas to revitalize the Rosslyn waterfront.

Rosslyn residents and visitors currently have no direct walkway to the Potomac River or even a path to reach the Key Bridge to get into Georgetown, without crossing busy roads and on-ramps.

“Most cities and counties have recognized the value of their waterfronts as a gathering place,” Arlington’s planning supervisor for urban design and research Kris Krider said in a news release. “But the waterfront below Rosslyn has little pedestrian access and must overcome the barrier of busy highways and large numbers of drivers . . . who just whiz by with seemingly no interest in stopping to explore the area.”

Virginia Tech associate professor Paul Kelsch and doctorate student Jodi LaCoe developed three options the students could choose from as the base for their designs:

  • Bike, Bathe, and Beyond — “a connection to existing bike paths leading people to the site in addition to some form of bathing.” This could include things like a structure for storing one’s bike; showering and heading to work; a new spa along the bike path; or swimming in a cleaner Potomac River or a public pool.
  • A Food-Boat Wharf — “a place where future food boats could moor along the river’s edge and sell to Rosslyn workers looking for a delectable waterside lunch.”
  • Urban Drive-In Theater — entertainment for people “coming by foot, bike, or car to watch movies or other performances.”

In all, 18 students submitted their designs, with most of them electing to base their ideas on the “Bike, Bathe and Beyond” program. According to the county’s website, the suggestions include:

Paige Courtney’s Natural Swimming Pool

Paige proposed moving the parkway farther inland, cutting into the slope with a large retaining wall that supports a new traffic circle for access to the Key Bridge. The former roadbed is utilized for storm water management and two swimming pools along the waterfront for lap and family swimming. The former eastbound lane of the parkway provides vehicular access and parking for the new facility.

Charlston Britton’s Bridging the Gap – A Boathouse for Rosslyn

Charlston seeked to explore and provide a connection between the perceived boundaries of the Rosslyn business district and the Rosslyn waterfront. At present time, the transportation infrastructure within Rosslyn acts as a hindrance to convenient access to the Potomac River. By occupying the void beneath Key Bridge and connecting the Mount Vernon Trail and the Potomac Heritage trail, this project aims to bridge the gap between the city and the river’s edge.

Jack Gamboa’s Rosslyn Bike + Bath

This project is designed as a place of seclusion in the midst of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. The bike path connects to the city sidewalks and provides a way to traverse the steep hill. The existing George Washington Memorial Parkway is pushed into the Potomac to create a secluded water channel and clear land for development. The bath is set into the hillside and contains spa facilities as well as a series of indoor pools for year round relaxation.

Sebastian Zaror’s Mount Vernon Trail Station

Sebastian’s project is situated in the coastal side of the Mount Vernon Trail facing the Arlington riverside. The goal is to encourage users of the trail to use the project as a station in their commute or exercise regimen throughout the year. The building features an outside pool fed by a constructed wetland and a sports facility meant for everyday use.

Lauren Habenicht Arledge’s Theatrical Landscape 

Lauren studied the theatricality of the existing parkway and proposed an elevated stretch, setting up a dramatic view of the Potomac River and Key Bridge. A series of terraces with cascading pools step down to the river’s edge, with numerous opportunities for recreation, including a soccer field, basketball court and picnicking.

Runyu Ma’s Pop-Up Commercial Bridge Over the Parkway

Runyu proposed constructing a pair of long, thin bridges over the parkway as a continuous pedestrian route linking the Rosslyn commercial district to the river. The larger pedestrian bridge is designed for pop-up retail spaces, while the second bridge accommodates cyclists and pedestrians. Water taxis and food boats would be able to dock on the downriver side to service Rosslyn’s business community.

Richard Hagstrom’s River Walk at Rosslyn Waterfront

Richard exposed and reassigned sediment paths for access to the Potomac River waterfront. Existing path language is replicated for cohesion with George Washington Parkway elements. In addition, the urban element installation helps expand wetland ecology.

Manting Wang’s Boutique Hotel and Bar

Manting tried to find a solution to the broken connection of the Rosslyn business area and the waterfront, also a National Park. Assuming the original Marriott is replaced by Arlington Center for the Performing Arts, a new boutique hotel will be built for performers, the audience and other travelers.

Suzie Yang’s Communal Baths 

Suzie’s project featured improvements to Gateway Park. She sees it as a stop for people biking, a communal space with a pool and a personal bathing experience. She also envisioned it as a place that accommodates people coming over the Key Bridge by creating a building that includes bike storage, bathing and a communal pool.

Photos Courtesy of Arlington County

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