We are very pleased to have another colleague writing for us today. Jon Kinney is a highly regarded land use and real estate law expert with our firm. Jon brings us commentary on changes coming to Arlington County’s planning for the East Falls Church area in Northern Virginia.
In anticipation of the opening of Metro’s Silver Line, the Arlington County Board established the East Falls Church Planning Task Force to consider key planning issues in East Falls Church, including height and density, land uses, urban design, affordable housing, transportation improvements, open space and environmental sustainability in the East Falls Church area. The East Falls Church Planning Task Force completed its comprehensive review of the East Falls Church study area this week and forwarded its recommendations to the Arlington County Planning Commission and the Arlington County Board which are both scheduled to take up the issue in a few weeks.
The Task Force recommendations include:
- Mixed use development. The Task Force is encouraging a balance between residential, retail, office and hotel uses in East Falls Church. Building heights are generally limited to four to six stories with the exception of the site immediately next to the Metro station where nine stories are permitted provided heights are maintained at four stories along Washington Boulevard.
- Transition to surrounding single family area. Future development should be designed to respond to the existence of single family and townhouse neighborhoods in the immediate area.
- Open Spaces. The Task Force recommendations include creating a new public space at the heart of East Falls Church at Lee Highway on the western side of Route 66 and a large pedestrian plaza as part of any development of the Metro station site.
- Bicycle and Pedestrian connections to the Metro. An important element of the work of the Task Force was enhancing the pedestrian and bicycle network to the Metro station. East Falls Church is one of the most heavily used bicycle-oriented Metro stations and efforts were made to meet current and future bicycle demand.
- Elimination of commuter parking. An import aspect of the Task Force’s recommendation is the elimination of commuter parking in any future development of the Metro station site.
The Task Force also made decisions regarding affordable housing, quality architectural design and more efficient use of transit at the Metro rail station. The actual heights and densities in the plan differ only slightly from the existing Arlington County Land Use Plan; in a few cases the recommendation provide less height and/or density than currently permitted.
An important feature of the Plan is an attempt to create a western pedestrian Metro rail entrance in order to bridge the gap in the community caused by the construction of I-66. The Task Force is proposing four separate options to provide pedestrian access from the west side of I-66 to an expanded Metro platform in the middle of I-66 (please see graphic below). The cost associated with this proposal may delay it’s implementation at least until the redevelopment of the Metro site.
Representation of both the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Metro were on the Task Force. VDOT indicated that it has no plans to sell and/or ground lease its land next to the Metro station. Because VDOT owns most of the land located at the East Falls Church Metro station, no major development can occur on this site without their agreement.