While last week‘s landmark zoning decision legalized 2-6 unit homes throughout Arlington’s lowest-density neighborhoods, about 136 properties will be ineligible for such projects.
The exemption applies to certain 5,000-6,000 square-foot lots — the county’s smallest standardized residential lot size, dubbed R-5 and R-6, respectively — located near transit and within planning districts in East Falls Church, Cherrydale and Columbia Pike.
In the nearly 150-page long report on the zoning ordinance changes, Arlington County says the three properties in East Falls Church, 49 properties in Cherrydale and 82 near the Pike could be assembled with other properties that previous planning efforts have identified for redevelopment.
“Within these planning districts, there are locations where reinvestment has not yet occurred and assembly of the R-5 and R-6 zoned parcels with parcels along the corridor frontage could realize identified plan goals for the revitalization district,” per the county report outlining the approved Missing Middle zoning changes.
Assembling these properties with nearby lots could allow developers to realize the vision for these corridors, the report says.
This includes “mixed use development, improvements to the public realm, walkability, increased housing supply, housing affordability, and creation of coordinated buffer or transition zones to lower density residential areas,” the county says.
In East Falls Church, transit-oriented development near the Metro station has languished and many planning goals from a 2011 East Falls Church Area Plan remain unrealized. While there are some new townhouses within walking distance, an empty parking lot and a standalone parking garage are two examples of “prime real estate” awaiting redevelopment.
This includes two single-family homes — across the street from the “Kiss and Ride” lot — identified for potential redevelopment in the 2011 plan, which faced strong opposition from some who said it encouraged too much development, despite the proximity to a Metro station.
The other exempted property, though zoned as residential, is home to a telecommunications building owned by Verizon and a parking lot. The back of this surface parking lot is across the street from the East Falls Church Metro station; some commuters use it to cut through the block north of the station, per the 2011 plan.
“The Verizon building is anticipated to remain in use for the foreseeable future,” the 2011 plan notes. “However the rear portion of the lot, which is a largely unused parking lot, has potential for redevelopment.”
The plan envisions townhouses or low-rise multifamily development of three to four stories. Verizon did not return a request for comment about plans for the site.
Such development “should accommodate a dedicated pedestrian path through the entire site from Lee Highway to Washington Boulevard that would formalize this vital connection,” the plan says.
If the Virginia Dept. of Transportation and WMATA move forward with plans to redevelop a commuter lot across the street, the connection could also get a new signalized crossing between the — potentially — redeveloped lots. Around this time last year, neither agency indicated progress toward redeveloping the site, citing barriers such as restrictive zoning.
At the time, a county planner told ARLnow that without higher building heights, there may not be much of an incentive to build.
“Those costs are real,” Natasha Alfonso said. “There has to be enough density to justify that kind of improvement on those sites. If the community wants walkable, transit-oriented development, those are things we have to consider.”
Another 82 properties are located within the Columbia Pike Special Revitalization District, including some along 12th Street S., a few blocks south of the Pike.
There have been signs of some higher-density housing types popping up within the district. One that was completed a few years ago is a series of stacked townhomes dubbed Axumite Village.
note that $400k for a two-bedroom is not a small amount of money, but it's small enough that you can use affordable housing tax credits or direct subsidies to provide these homes at a lower price a low-income family can afford
— dan reed 🦀🏳️🌈👋🏾 (@justupthepike) June 10, 2021
Over in Cherrydale, a 1994 revitalization plan identified more than nine acres of vacant or underused land for redevelopment, including the existing and operating Toyota and Honda dealerships, a motel, the now-closed Essy’s Carriage House restaurant and their associated parking lots.
There are some single-family homes immediately adjacent that are also exempt from EHO projects.
The 1994 plan, which the county says has yet to be fully realized, attempted to preserve and revitalize existing service and retail businesses in Cherrydale, while encouraging development of the car dealerships and auto body repair shops and their surface lots.
While one townhouse development at the corner of Langston Blvd and N. Pollard Street serves as a buffer, in other places, there are no transitions between the commercial properties and neighboring single-family homes.
“Almost half of the residentially zoned acreage is located in transitional areas between commercial and low-density residential land uses and are under the same ownership as contiguous commercially zoned parcels fronting Lee Highway,” per the plan, drafted well before the name for Route 29 changed to Langston Blvd.
“These properties represent opportunities to enhance low-density residential areas by buffering them from the commercial uses along Lee Highway,” the plan adds.
Both East Falls Church and Cherrydale were exempted from the ongoing Plan Langston Blvd process to envision future development along the corridor because they already had such plans in place, even if not fully realized.
The county says other neighborhoods within the plan area that are zoned residential could be exempted down the road for the same reasons the other 136 properties are ineligible for Missing Middle.
“When Plan Langston Boulevard is brought forward for County Board consideration later this year, staff anticipates recommending a mechanism that would make R-zoned sites with a redevelopment option ineligible for EHO development, to better support implementation of the plan’s long range land use vision for Langston Boulevard,” the report said.
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Please join us on Saturday, June 3, from 2 to 4 pm for the Glencarlyn Home Tour in Arlington’s historic Glencarlyn neighborhood. Among the featured homes will be a sparkling new home by A&N Builders at 5604-4th St. South. The inviting front porch opens to a light-filled space featuring high ceiling, wood floors, gas fireplace, Pella windows, Shrock cabinets, Quartz countertop, and JennAir appliances. Doors from the family room open to a large covered porch with a few steps to the level, landscaped rear yard. Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, three bathrooms, laundry room, and linen storage. The big lower level has a rec room, gym space, and a fifth bedroom and bathroom plus even more storage. After leaving the home, stroll to the Ball-Sellers home, the oldest residence in Arlington, the community gardens at the library, Carlin Hall, and the 94 acre Glencarlyn Park. A lovely way to while away a late spring afternoon.
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