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NEW! On July 23, the County Board voted unanimously to adopt the Rosslyn Sector Plan.

What is the Realize Rosslyn planning process?

The new final draft Rosslyn Sector Plan will help to define a refreshed vision for the future of central Rosslyn as a great urban place that is easily accessible and features great housing, retail shops, office space, streets, parks and easy access to public transit. This sector plan includes specific recommendations and actions to achieve the community’s vision for the area. Once adopted by the County Board, the plan will serve as a guide for future development and many capital improvements in Rosslyn over the next several decades.

Since the December 2012 planning kickoff, the project team has been working closely with residents, developers, business owners, community leaders and other stakeholders to develop a shared vision for Rosslyn and a plan with the recommendations needed to achieve that vision.

How can I get involved?

  • Sign up for emails - receive updates about the planning process
  • Connect with us!

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Why is this planning happening now?
In recent years, Rosslyn has undergone much change. Central Rosslyn is expected to see continued, significant development activity for years to come. Updating the Rosslyn Sector Plan will allow us to apply current planning standards to address development issues and community concerns, and to provide policy clarification and updates where needed.

Why is the County studying this area again?
There is significant interest from the development community and Arlingtonians to transform Rosslyn into one of region’s great urban centers.

The last major planning study was conducted more than 20 years ago. Previous planning efforts helped to advance the Rosslyn area into the thriving commercial center it is today. In 1996, the County Board created the “C-O Rosslyn” zoning district, increasing the maximum permitted density two to three fold, as a means of encouraging redevelopment projects that helped achieve goals of the 1992 Plan Addendum. However, the building densities and heights permitted by the “C-O Rosslyn” district greatly exceeded what was envisioned in the 1992 plan. The timing is right to plan for Rosslyn’s second generation of redevelopment, and better align the County’s plans and regulatory framework for Rosslyn.

What are some of the key goals and objectives of the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update?

  • Encourage good urban design and successful placemaking through future development
  • Provide more specific guidance on the future form and height of Rosslyn’s buildings and skyline
  • Improve the transportation system’s ability to move people in and around Rosslyn
  • Enhance and diversify Rosslyn’s network of parks and open spaces

How  prescriptive will the plan be regarding the future land uses for each site?
The Rosslyn Sector Plan sets forth a use mix goal that includes an increased share of housing within the Rosslyn Coordinated Redevelopment District. The plan aims to achieve this by encouraging projects with multiple buildings to include at least one building that is primarily housing, without prescribing specific land uses for each site.

During subcommittee meetings last fall, a number of future Rosslyn scenarios were modeled to inform the development of use mix goals and strategies for the plan based on likely potential outcomes or possibilities. In most cases, our studies found that commercial or residential uses could work well. While materials from those meetings included snapshots of potential uses on each site, the plan will not prescribe specific land uses on a site-by-site basis.

The Sector Plan maps show new streets and parks where buildings exist today. How will those be achieved?
Conversations leading to the Rosslyn Sector Plan indicated a real need for an enhanced and expanded public realm, including improvements to parks and transportation networks, for Rosslyn to reach its full potential. The Rosslyn Sector Plan, like many Arlington sector plans, includes visual representations of what might be accomplished through redevelopment. The Sector Plan includes maps that show new streets and open spaces where buildings exist today. County long range plans often entail razing existing buildings to create something as part of the vision for the area. As such, the County’s approach is typically to wait for proposed redevelopment of the sites (typically by private parties) to realize this new public space, and plans will often provide increased development potential as an incentive for redevelopment to realize these new streets and open spaces. Often, these new streets, parks, and similar elements are included as part of the community benefits provided by a development to help mitigate impacts from the increases in density.

How constraining will the Sector Plan’s guidelines on building form, height and density be for future development in Rosslyn?
An important aspect of the Realize Rosslyn planning effort is to develop more specific (and more certain) guidance for future building heights in Rosslyn to create a great place. This plan captures an important opportunity for developing a more strategic approach to building heights across central Rosslyn to more effectively meet many of the plan’s goals and add more value to the area.

Our analyses have shown that if projected into the future, Rosslyn’s existing topography combined with the current policy of tapering building heights in Rosslyn down to the edges will likely yield disappointing results, or in some cases may even preclude redevelopment altogether.

A new building heights policy, often described as “Peaks and Valleys,” has been developed as part of this plan. The fundamental premise of this approach is that collectively, a more varied skyline and diverse building heights across the district will yield better results and can help Rosslyn remain a more livable place even while adding dozens of new buildings.

While this approach aims to maximize the realization of pertinent goals from the Plan Framework, concerns have been raised that various specific density limits (or floor area ratios) would be set for each site. The plan does not explicitly set density limits for each site. It does, however, include design guidelines and recommendations to help manage future development in a way that can help achieve “Peaks and Valleys” for Rosslyn. As presented in the draft plan, these guidelines aim to balance the ability to ensure certain plan goals can be met with providing enough flexibility for creative solutions to site-specific design challenges.

How will this plan provide flexibility where needed for redevelopment?
The Rosslyn Sector Plan includes a building heights map recommending the height limits for buildings on each block. A number of sites are planned for heights less than 300 feet, often because they are not anticipated to provide new streets or public open spaces, and therefore can approach maximum permitted densities in relatively lower heights. Nevertheless, to preserve the opportunity for creative buildings solutions that may have not been considered, the sector plan proposes that single-tower sites planned for lower heights will be able to ask the County Board to modify the height of a proposed building up to 300 feet. In order to have this height modification approved, the proposed project must demonstrate that any additional height proposed above the planned maximum does not significantly detract from meeting the plan’s goals pertaining to building height and form.

Another way in which this plan will provide flexibility is through the relatively limited number of elements anticipated to be codified through future zoning ordinance amendments. With the release of the first draft, only density, building heights, and building stepbacks are anticipated to be codified in the future, with the balance of building height and form recommendations remaining inherently flexible as design guidelines. Furthermore, each design guideline includes a stated intent, to help with the review of future projects when proposals provide alternative solutions to meeting the objectives of each design guideline.

How does the plan address above-grade parking?
As with other transit-oriented development areas in Arlington, the County prefers to realize below-grade parking for high-density development site plan projects. However, the plan realizes that in some cases (for example, where depth to bedrock is quite shallow), consideration may have to be given for some amount of above-grade parking due to the size of  “C-O Rosslyn” projects and the expense of blasting through solid rock. Alternatively, other innovative parking solutions could be applied to meeting the area’s parking needs. The first draft of the plan addresses above grade parking and clearly conveys a range of possibilities. Finally, consistent with the County’s Zoning Ordinance, where provided, above-grade parking is not counted as Gross Floor Area for density purposes.