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The Silver Line: Station #1 and the East Falls Church Plan

This is the second posting in my station by station land use analysis of Northern Virginia's new Silver Line.  The first station (at the Silver Line's eastern terminus) is the East Falls Church Metro Station, which will serve as the transfer station from the Silver Line to the Orange Line.

 

The East Falls Church Plan is currently undergoing its public review process, and is a collaborative effort between the City of Falls Church, Arlington County, VDOT, WMATA and the community.  It has been in the works for several years at this point and has been a hard plan for everybody to get behind, not because everyone doesn't want to prepare for the inevitable fact that the East Falls Church Metro Station will need to be able to handle the increased number of commuters funneled into the Orange Line from as far out as Loudoun County, but instead because they can't start from scratch, and are trying to provide a solution to a difficult set of existing circumstances.

The first thing you'll notice about the plan is that the station area is located in a predominantly single family home neighborhood.  The second thing you'll notice about the plan is that the East Falls Church station area is cut up by a number of multiple lane highways and major arterial roads (click here for a full size vicinity map of the plan), including I-66, Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Sycamore Street, and their associated merging/ramp systems.  This creates a number of complicated problems from the start - a single family community obviously does not want to have a ton of density dropped into the middle of its neighborhood, and because the neighborhood is already fractured by these major roadways, it makes it very difficult to connect density to the Metro Station.  Separating density from mass transit clearly goes against what many consider one of the basic tenants of modern urban planning. 

As you can see from the plan, the planned upgraded metro and transit station is not really centrally located within the plan.  Instead, density is planned along Lee Highway on both sides of the I-66 overpass.  The result has been a bit of an identity crisis about whether this is the Lee Highway "gateway plan" or whether this is in fact a new plan for the East Falls Church Metro Station, and no real defined sense of "place" when it comes to East Falls Church.

Setting all of those issues aside, the plan itself is pretty limited in scope, with only a little over a dozen sites planned for redevelopment (the redevelopment sites are shown here).  The plan keeps most of the planned redevelopment sites to 5 to 6 stories, with a few sites on the Falls Church side of the line having the potential to creep up to 8 stories (click here for the Building Heights Plan).  The plan is for a mix of uses, though given the location I imagine (here's the use plan) the market will demand more residential uses than commercial, and, except for the new planned transit station, there is not a lot of retail planned.

The plan for the upgraded station itself is really the highlight of the plan.  The station (projected to be a 450,000 SF facility) is planned around a 30,000 to 38,000 SF public plaza that will be framed by retail to serve the surrounding neighborhoods, and will provide an additional 75 to 100 spaces of retail parking.  Here's an elevation of what it might look like.  A massing study was also prepared which helps give it some context, and can be viewed here

Next stop: Tysons East.