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Growing Smart – The Crystal City-Pentagon City Corridor

Facts

  • On many major Arlington streets, traffic is less than it was in 1970, even though our population has doubled in that time.
  • Our Metrorail corridors — just 11% of Arlington’s land – hold more than half our real property values.

How did we do it?

Crystal City Rendoring

Crystal City rendering – The Future

The secret is Arlington’s commitment to “smart growth” planning – our commitment to transit-oriented development (TOD) that keeps high-density mixed-use development along our transit corridors, while preserving residential neighborhoods. This consistent approach to planning and building community has been the backbone of Arlington’s success for more than four decades.

A plan for Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor

The approximately 1.5-mile stretch of land along Route 1 that lies between Potomac Yard on the south and Crystal City on the north is the heart of Arlington’s business district. The area is home to:

  • 36 million square feet of mixed-use development
  • More than 17,000 residents
  • About  54,700 jobs

By any measure, this is a phenomenally successful area of Arlington.  The tax revenues produced in the corridor  help support high-quality schools, services, programs and amenities for all Arlingtonians.

But this area of the County also faces challenges. Through the federal Department of Defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, Crystal City is expected to lose some13,000  jobs, creating 3.2 million  square feet of office vacancies. The exodus of jobs from the area is already well underway. Arlington has been harder hit by BRAC than any other community in the nation.  BRAC came at a time when many of the office buildings erected in the 1960s and 1970s in Crystal City were showing their age.

To help meet the challenge  and seize the opportunities posed by BRAC, in 2010, the Arlington County Board and the Arlington community used smart growth principles to create the Crystal City Sector Plan. The Plan, a key element of the County’s bold vision for redeveloping the area over the next 40 years, sees the “Route 1” corridor as far more than just a place to work or to travel through.  Our plan:

  • Transforms Crystal City to a more vibrant, walkable neighborhood with 18/7 activity
  • Anticipates growth: By 2040, Crystal City and Pentagon City are estimated to add a total of 8,500 more residents, and 35,500 more jobs.
  • Encourages development that will bring more life to the streets, create better public spaces and better street connections.

Building for the future

To support the anticipated influx of jobs and people to this vitally important, already densely built area, Arlington is making major investments in expanding the overall transit system’s capacity. The County recognizes that no one transportation solution can accommodate the projected growth. It will take a robust combination of street improvements, more and better bus service and a streetcar line to improve traffic flows, provide more walkable streets, increase transit capacity and better connect the area to the regional transit network.

Streetcar planned as transit centerpiece

At the heart of the transit-oriented development vision for the Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor lies the Arlington streetcar, now in the planning stages. Across the nation, modern streetcar lines are proving to be great tools for increasing transit ridership and spurring the sort of high-quality, sustainable development that helps build community and undergird prosperity.

The streetcar will not only help keep traffic moving in the corridor, and make it easier for workers to get to and from jobs, it also will link to the regional transportation network, helping to ease growing traffic congestion.

Phased service improvements

In the meantime, growth is already happening in the corridor. We are making improvements to satisfy the demand for transit service brought about with new development in the corridor. This includes the introduction of new routes such as Metrobus 9S, a six-minute peak route that serves the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s offices at One Potomac Yard and provides connections to Metrorail and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).

Arlington is also building a Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway that will provide high-capacity, high-frequency transit service from South Glebe Road to 15th Street, continuing to connect with the Metrorail station and VRE. Bus service in the corridor will be more frequent,  and service between Alexandria and Arlington will be integrated into a single service, operated by WMATA, that will run from one end of the corridor to the other. This service, a precursor to the streetcar, will be a high-amenity transit line. It will serve the corridor through the forecasted major phases of population and employment growth.