Arlington County’s Strategic Response to Rising Office Vacancy Rates

Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law

Arlington County’s Strategic Response to Rising Office Vacancy Rates

Apr 29, 2024 | Real Estate, Land Use & Construction Law

Arlington County is pursuing measures to address the challenges of increasing office vacancy rates, influenced by changing work patterns and economic conditions. The county has implemented several strategic initiatives aimed at revitalizing its commercial real estate sector. These measures include adaptive reuse of obsolete buildings, enhancements to density allowances in Rosslyn, and updates to parking standards for compact cars. These initiatives were affirmed during the April 20, 2024, Board Meeting.

Adaptive Reuse of Obsolete Buildings

As part of its Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative (CMRI), Arlington County is exploring zoning ordinance amendments to facilitate the adaptive reuse of obsolete commercial properties into residential or hotel uses. This approach aims to reduce vacant spaces and repurpose existing structures in economically viable ways. Planned for adoption by September 2024, these changes could potentially streamline the entitlement processes and introduce potential new regulations for building and site improvements. The initiative targets a select number of properties where adaptive reuse is deemed feasible, focusing on converting these from low-tax to higher revenue-generating assets​​.

Density Increases in Rosslyn

In response to development needs, Arlington County has proposed zoning ordinance amendments in the Rosslyn area to allow increases in floor area ratios (FAR) above the traditional cap of 10.0. This initiative is designed to incorporate previously excluded areas like observation decks and unused storage into the usable square footage of buildings. These changes aim to attract development activity to Rosslyn by offering opportunities for enhanced building density, aligning with the district’s long-term sector plans, and expected to provide community benefits through strategic redevelopment​​. The public hearings to discuss these changes are scheduled for July 2024, with a potential adoption following shortly thereafter.

Modifications to Compact Car Parking Standards

The proposal for compact car parking revisions aims to accommodate changing transportation needs and better utilize urban space. Unlike the other initiatives, this amendment was specifically approved at the April 2024 Board meeting, allowing for immediate implementation. These changes permit compact car spaces for a wider range of uses, including hospitals, medical offices, and retail locations, aiming to support the operations of essential services and small businesses by optimizing parking space usage​​.

Arlington County’s approach to managing office vacancy rates involves a combination of adaptive reuse, density enhancements, and parking standard modifications. These measures are part of a broader effort to address commercial real estate challenges and promote sustainable urban growth. While the initiatives are designed to improve economic resilience, their long-term effectiveness and impact on the community will depend on ongoing evaluation and adaptation.

If you have questions about Arlington County’s measures to address office vacancy rates or need assistance with a real estate matter, please contact Andrew Gregg, at or (703) 284-7254.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. Consult a lawyer. Any views or opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily the views of any client.


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