CPRO celebrates 35 years, rebrands as the ‘Columbia Pike Partnership’

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) celebrated its 35th anniversary last week with a party at Penrose Square, while unveiling a new name: The Columbia Pike Partnership.

Shannon Bailey, vice-chair of the organization’s executive committee, along with executive director Kim Klingler, made the announcement at its 35th anniversary party on Wednesday (Oct. 13) evening.

“It really does take all of us to create an ecosystem here,” Bailey said. “So we do this together moving forward as a partnership.”

Along with the new name, there’s also a new logo, color scheme, and branding.

“Everything that we do requires our partners and we really realized that during Covid,” Klingler told ARLnow moments after announcing the name change. “We wanted a name that truly reflected who we are today. We have the same mission. We have the same values, but people really didn’t know who we were and we wanted our name to reflect that.”

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization formed in 1986 in response to the Arlington County Board awarding a $50,000 grant to help make the moribund corridor a more vibrant place to live and do business.

The hope was the money and an organized effort would be “the first step in what some see as a 10-year effort to coordinate improvements that could lead to revitalization of the highway as well as a return of community pride.”

But times and the Pike have changed.

First enacted in 2003, the Columbia Pike Form-Based Code has led to an organized development effort and a standardization in how buildings along the Pike will look going forward.

“This really jump started [development] on Arlington’s oldest main street,” Takis Karantonis, former CPRO executive director and current county board member, told ARLnow at the celebration. “Urban development is a slow game. A very slow game. But [the form-based code] and CPRO have brought diverse communities together — developers, shop owners, residents — to make it happen.”

The Pike has a reputation for being one of the more affordable and diverse areas in the county. Columbia Pike and its 22204 zip code is often referred to as a “world in a zip code.”

Klingler said it was time to make clear the organization’s role in preserving this reputation.

“We really want to marry diversity and development. People say that is a very challenging thing to do, but I believe we can find that balance,” she said.

It’s also about connecting all stakeholders on the Pike, she says. The “Buy a Nurse Lunch” program launched last spring was a good example, Klingler notes, from which more than $60,000 was raised to buy 4,300 meals from 15 local restaurants. The meals were then delivered to staff at the Virginia Hospital Center.

There’s also the “Feed our Families” initiative, which raised $100,000 to distribute more than 4,800 boxes of fresh produce to low-income residents on the Pike.

Then there are the events the organization organizes.

“All these events that we’ve been doing for 35 years, like the blues festival, the farmers markets, the movie nights… no one ever knew our organization was the one doing them,” Klingler said. “People thought it was the county, and granted the county is a huge partner, but it should be known that we are a partnership.”

Besides the unveiling of the name, the celebration included food from local restaurants, a recognition of past CPRO leaders, a photo exhibit showcasing Pike diversity from Lloyd Wolf, and a performance by the Nomad Dancers. The D.C.-based group performed two traditional Afghan dances in honor of refugees who have recently found a new home on the Pike.

As for the future of the Columbia Pike Partnership, Klingler believes that the organization needs to go well beyond its original, business-boosting focus in order to focus on the needs of local residents.

“We always knew that food insecurity was a challenge in Arlington, which really did not realize that until the pandemic. It will continue to be a challenge and we will continue to be in that space. There are other spaces… digital equity, child care, health care,” Klingler said. “Those are areas that I really think the coalition, partnership, can help with.”

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