While the pandemic prompted a well-documented exodus to, and development of, sleepy suburban and exurban towns, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District says it has identified a different Covid migration pattern.
About a quarter of Americans reported moving to cities where they could be within a 15-minute walk or bike ride of grocery stores, healthcare and parks, according to a national survey by the BID.
The survey also found 41% plan on moving to be within walking or biking distance of their preferred amenities — including coffee shops, schools and gyms — in the next one to three years. That’s in contrast with places that prioritize mobility by motor vehicle, with sidewalks and bike lanes as a relative afterthought.
The idea of being in a place within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from these amenities, dubbed a “15-minute city,” was developed by French-Colombian academic Carlos Moreno. He says his aim is to “rebalance” localities that have been designed to boost productivity rather than well-being. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, popularized his idea when lockdowns kept people closer to home than usual, and efforts to realize Moreno’s idea took hold there and in other European cities.
Arlington County Planning Commission member Daniel Weir embraces the concept, saying it is better for people and the environment.
“Cities are for people, not cars, and we should be able to get our needs met within a 15-minute walk or bike ride,” he said. “Once upon a time, in living memory for our grandparents, every city in America — from Luray, Virginia to Manhattan — was a 15-minute city. Sometime after the war, we got the idea that cities were about highways and cars, and people had to make way. Now, we’re seeing auto-oriented infrastructure and development is one of the most flawed social experiments of all time.”
Arlington is now trying to at least partially unwind auto-oriented development along Langston Blvd and Richmond Highway, but has yet to tackle the suburban neighborhoods that fall outside its primary planning corridors. Still, the county, which has no singular city center, has had a number of “15-minute cities” spring up through transit-oriented development, which began in the 1960s.
Transit-oriented development created compact urban villages of Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Ballston, Pentagon City and Crystal City along the Orange and Blue Metro lines, and is facilitating more development on the bus-connected Columbia Pike.
“The 15-minute city approach is consistent with many facets of the Arlington Comprehensive Plan and is more intrinsic in Arlington’s principles for compact and transit-oriented development,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for Arlington County Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
Where the pandemic is helping advance the 15-minute city concept in Arlington is via an expansion of uses permitted in the county’s densest zoning districts.
“This is creating potential for expanded uses, including workshop spaces, breweries/distilleries, indoor agricultural such as hydroponics, and animal boarding,” she said. “This blending of retail, restaurants, entertainment, and destination uses, along with offices in smaller, non-traditional formats may prove beneficial to residents living in any of Arlington’s mixed-use corridors or in close proximity to them.”
No longer does a Rosslyn resident, for instance, need to drive to a lower-density part of Arlington to board their pet.
While Rosslyn has transformed from downtown district to 15-minute city, BID President Mary-Claire Burick says the county, property owners and the BID must keep “working together to keep our urban center active and accessible.”
Burick says her organization supports the mixed-use developments and the amenities they’re bringing.
“We support Arlington County’s planned investments in public green space and critical transportation infrastructure — such as the removal of the Fort Myer Tunnel,” she added, “and further building out Rosslyn’s network of pedestrian and bike facilities — which are essential in helping make our amenities even more accessible.”
The BID will focus on “economic resiliency efforts, as well as our community events, programming, and placemaking, all which help create an urban downtown where people want to be,” Burick said.
County planners are looking to bring the successes of urban villages to segments of Langston Blvd. The goal of Plan Langston Boulevard is to facilitate walking, cycling, scooting and riding the bus to destinations along “the auto-oriented corridor,” Moore said.
Making destinations more walkable and bikeable would drop carbon emissions along the corridor, where nearby census tracts have some of the highest averages carbon footprints per household in Arlington, per a New York Times map.
Moore says the Plan Langston Boulevard effort will emphasize “key intersections to create mixed use development nodes, which would create opportunities for 15-minute pedestrian/bicycle access to shops, offices, or other expanded uses.”
With improved access along and across Langston Boulevard these nodes also can provide opportunities for residents who live nearby in existing residential areas,” Moore said.
Ensuring a greater mix of uses is the tool, but the 15-minute city is the “elegant, beautiful and simple yardstick” for seeing if the tool moved Arlington forward — by refocusing on the types of old-school communities lost to car-oriented development.
Expanding 15-minute city amenities beyond affluent parts of the county, says Weir, will be another key to making Arlington a more vibrant, equitable, healthy and friendly place to live.
“When you’re getting your needs met walking, the air is healthier, people are healthier, people know each other… people feel safer and they’re more involved,” he said.
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A 4 BD/3.5 B home with floor-to-ceiling windows and stone accent fireplace is included in Just Reduced.
Good Tuesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
New Addison Heights Home by National Landing Attractions!
A 19-year-old man and a teen boy are facing charges after two girls overdosed at Wakefield High School last week. Police and medics responded to the school just before 11:45…
The Arlington Sports Hall of Fame is extremely pleased to announce that our 2023 Annual Induction Dinner, again in partnership with the Better Sports Club of Arlington, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Knights of Columbus, located at 5115 Little Falls Road, Arlington, Va.
Our dinner will pay tribute to all the honored members of the Hall of Fame and will induct the following six new Class of 2023 inductees, joining the 62 athletes, coaches and contributors who have been inducted into ASHOF since its founding in 1958:
Noel Deskins (Yorktown Class of ’79): Track & Field record-holder & Athlete of the Year at YHS and JMU
Eric Metcalf (O’Connell Class of ’85): Star NFL running back, football and track & field record-holder and Hall of Famer at both O’Connell and the University of Texas
Opening night in Ballston, thanks to a partnership with Marymount University will feature renowned soprano Sharon Christman singing songs of Franz Schubert, Leonard Bernstein, Fanny Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss and some thrilling instrumental music.
But that’s not all! Get ready to