Arlington, VA

St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church is tired of being the big, ugly brick church in Clarendon.

St. Charles occupies a large piece of land in Clarendon, near Northside Social, and the church is continuing to review how that land should best be used — namely, the pastor says the church needs visual overhaul.

The redevelopment proposal started in 2018 with a push from the church’s pastor, Rev. Don Planty for a church that better suited the needs of the community. In a letter to the community, Planty said the church needed — among other things — a more “appealing design,” social spaces that would appeal to young adults, and green spaces.

The building has a glass facade on the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Kirkwood Road, but much of the rest of the structure across from George Mason University is squat brick and a surface parking lot.

“The consensus was that the current parish physical plant does not support those aspects of our mission as well as a redeveloped campus could,” Planty said at the time.

A spokesperson for the church said the community has nearly finalized the “second phase” of its redevelopment planning efforts.

“This phase focuses on determining how St. Charles parishioners prioritize ongoing programs to fulfill the mission of the parish,” the spokesperson said in an email. “A sub-group was formed to analyze those findings and has presented that preliminary information to the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. The diocese is reviewing this information and collaborating with the parish in assessing the best opportunities for St. Charles Parish to continue to serve the local community in the years to come.”

Once the Catholic Diocese of Arlington reviews the information, the spokesperson said the priorities will be translated into master plan options that will be reviewed by county officials and the community. The master plan options are expected to be released sometime “in the coming months.”

“At every point moving forward, the parish will actively engage the local community ensuring it continues to be a good neighbor throughout the process,” the spokesperson said.

Other churches in Arlington have funded new facilities through redevelopment of the church property, including the nearby Church at Clarendon and Arlington Presbyterian along Columbia Pike. Both congregations approved affordable housing developments that were built on top of the new church spaces.

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