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A mid-century relic of Rosslyn’s pedestrian infrastructure, next to the church-gas station, is coming down this summer

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) One of Rosslyn’s few remaining skywalks is set to come down as part of an effort to realize a walkable corridor from one end of the neighborhood to the other.

Arlington County will be demolishing a skywalk over N. Nash Street, near the Arlington Temple United Methodist Church building and Sunoco gas station dubbed “Our Lady of Exxon.” The county applied for a demolition permit for this project last month, permit records show.

“This is part of the Rosslyn Sector Plan’s 18th Street Corridor,” says Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. “The removal of the skywalk will help refocus pedestrian activity at the street level by replacing the remainder of the skywalk system with the envisioned 18th Street Corridor over time.”

Envisioned in the 2015 Rosslyn Sector Plan, the 18th Street Corridor is envisioned as a walkable thoroughfare extending from Rosslyn’s western edge, N. Quinn Street, to its eastern edge, Arlington Ridge Road. The corridor is intended to make Rosslyn more pedestrian-friendly by removing the skywalks, breaking up long north-south blocks and improving access to the Rosslyn Metro station, per the sector plan.

Some skywalks have already been removed as part of redevelopment projects changing Rosslyn’s skyline. Most recently, one that connected the now-demolished RCA building to the Rosslyn Gateway building was removed as part of plans to replace the building with apartments. Another over N. Lynn Street was removed in 2014 for the Central Place redevelopment that replaced a McDonalds.

The county is still working on the plans and obtaining necessary easements, O’Brien said. Demolition is expected to start this summer and take upwards of two months.

The demolition permit does not apply to the redevelopment project from Arlington-based Snell Properties, approved in 2021, to replace the Ames Center office building, formerly occupied by the Art Institute of Washington with two residential towers on the same block.

One tower would abut the Hyatt Centric hotel and another would surround the church and gas station, which will be completely rebuilt, according to a 2021 press release.

The new façade of Arlington Temple United Methodist Church at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive (via Arlington County)

In advance of this project, Arlington Temple United Methodist Church has relocated to 1701 N. Bryan Street, just north of Courthouse, according to Rev. Martha “Marti” Ringenbach.

As for progress on this development, Snell did demolish 1820 Fort Myer Drive in October but a construction start date has not been determined, a spokeswoman for the developer tells ARLnow. She noted Snell was not aware of this demolition permit.

Once underway, the redevelopment will also advance the 18th Street Corridor by building up a segment from Fort Myer Drive to N. Nash Street, the 2021 release said.

In proposing a corridor that is partially inaccessible to cars, the sector plan admits that the 1960s-era skywalks were a bit of a failed experiment.

These skywalks were “designed to connect blocks, buildings and uses efficiently while keeping pedestrians separated from vehicular traffic,” the plan says. “The execution of the skywalk concept fell short of expectations in some cases, which combined with a renewed focus on directing pedestrian activity to the street level, has led to an incremental deconstruction of the system over the past 15 years.”

Rosslyn’s skywalks were declassé even before the new millenium, according to a scathing write-up in a 1999 study of Rosslyn.

“To the planners of the early 50’s and 60’s, presumably it seemed orderly and logical to separate the pedestrian flow with its erratic, unpredictable movements, from the fast-moving steel machines of the road,” a consulting firm wrote in the report. “Buried in the back of the planners’ minds perhaps lingered images of the piazza at San Marco in Venice or those of Rome. If so, in the instance of Rosslyn, something was lost in translation.”

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