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A Look Forward at the Future Crystal City

The Arlington County Board will be deciding whether to approve a series of amendments to Arlington's Comprehensive Plan relating to Crystal City at their hearing at the end of September, after several years of evaluation on how best to react to the loss of approximately 17,000 jobs and over 4 million square feet of occupied office space due to the recommendations of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).  Specifically, the County Board will decide whether to adopt the new Crystal City Sector Plan 2050, and modify the General Land Use Plan and the Master Transportation Plan.

With Long Bridge Park and the Pentagon to the north, the airport and the river to the east, Aurora Highlands and Pentagon City to the west and Alexandria/Potomac Yards to the South, existing metro and VRE access, Crystal City seems well poised to make a comeback.  Here is an exhibit showing Crystal City's existing conditions.  The plan specifically outlines which sites are expected to be redeveloped, which sites have potential for redevelopment, and which sites are expected to remain for the life of the plan (click here for the comparison). Much like the Tyson's Corner Plan, Crystal City's 260 acres are broken up into proposed "districts" (shown here), including the Northwest Gateway, Northeast Gateway, Central Business, Entertainment, South End and West Side Districts, each with their own respective district-level focus.

The areas planned for the highest densities are basically limited to certain principle areas, including the sites in proximity to the planned multimodal transit hub facility and also those sites a the center of the Entertainment District.  The "Base Densities" referenced in the plans show what the existing GLUP designations contemplate for density, and are shown on the Base Density Map.  The plan models a 61% increase in density for Crystal City over the life of the plan, but rather than calling out specific densities caps for specific sites, density under the Crystal City Sector Plan will be controlled by bulk restrictions, shown on plans for height, setbacks, bulk angles, tower coverage, massing, etc.  Land use is set forth on the plan's new Land Use Map, and required on-street retail space is shown on the Retail Frontage Map.

Of particular interest in the plan is the "...addition of a dedicated surface transit-way to Crystal City's existing [transit] system...," that will include a streetcar or trolley system.  The recommended alignment for this system is shown here, as well as a new eastern entrance to the Crystal City Metro Station.  A multi-modal transfer hub facility (shown here) is planned to connect metro, VRE, bus and trolley systems at the location of the existing entrance to the Crystal City Metro Station.

One of the most unique things about Crystal City has always been the Crystal City Underground which connects a lot of Crystal City for pedestrians via a network of tunnels, underground and interior  spaces.   While the plan guides how retail, pedestrian systems and planned open space will make use of these existing features, most of the Underground is contemplated as remaining in place.

The Crystal City Sector is also going to be one of the proving grounds for Arlington's currently developing Community Energy Plan, with carbon reduction and sustainability as some of the major plan objectives, as well as incorporating the proposed streetcar/trolley system's energy needs in Crystal City's district energy plans.

All said, it is a fairly extensive and unique plan, and I don't think a simple blog posting can do it justice.  For those of you that want all the details, here's a link to the entire proposed plan and the staff report for the September hearing.