The Arlington County Board last week adopted a plan for the East Falls Church Metro Station area that will eventually replace the existing commuter surface parking lot and other underutilized properties with a mixed-use neighborhood center, new open space and better transit and pedestrian access.
An intensive planning process, started at the request of the East Falls Church community, included a broad range of stakeholders. Under the plan, a station area now made up of small, disconnected commercial and industrial properties will gradually be transformed into a vital, connected place with transit facilities that are linked to the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is a thoughtful plan for the future of East Falls Church,” said County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. “With the Silver Line coming, it makes sense to articulate a long-term vision and a framework for development that preserves the flourishing single-family neighborhoods around the station while creating a neighborhood center and transit hub that better serves the East Falls Church area.”
The Board’s vote on the plan was 5 to 0.
Height limits were included in the plan. It limits building heights to four stories in areas adjacent to single-family development. Heights will rise to five to six stories along Lee Highway adjacent to Washington Boulevard. Along Lee Highway south of I-66, building heights would range from five to eight stories.
On the Metrorail Park & Ride site, building heights will taper down from a maximum height of nine stories along the Interstate 66 right-of-way to six stories in the middle of the site and to three stories along the Washington Boulevard street frontage. Other highlights of the plan include:
• Replacing the surface parking lot with a mixed-use development that will include ground floor retail, shared public parking, a public open space and continuation of existing bus operations.
• Creating three new public open spaces: adjacent to the station, and two sites located on either side of Lee Highway adjacent to the W&OD Trail.
• Building a new west entrance to the East Falls Church Metrorail station, making it easier to get to and from proposed development along Lee Highway in Arlington and Washington Street in the City of Falls Church.
• Redesigning Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Sycamore Street, to include new lane configurations, on-street bicycle lanes, on-street parking, better pedestrian safety at intersections and more street tree planting areas.
• Generating 100-250 units of committed affordable housing in the greater East Falls Church area by applying the County’s “Affordable Housing Ordinance” on future Site Plan projects, through the potential conversion of market affordable housing units to committed affordable units, and through coordinating with WMATA on the future development of the Park & Ride site.
The community, County staff and the Board have engaged in a detailed planning process for the East Falls Church Station Area. The Board-appointed task force held about 30 open meetings and two community forums on the plan. Since November, staff has held two open houses and a community forum. In addition, the plan has been reviewed by numerous County commissions and community groups.
• 2007 — The County Board appointed a residents’ Task Force to generate a land use and transportation vision for transit-oriented development in the East Falls Church area. The Task Force held numerous public meetings over the next three years.
• June 2010 — The Task Force adopted the East Falls Church Area Plan. The Board accepted the plan in July 2010 as guidance in developing a County Plan.
• July 2010-April 2011 – The staff-developed plan was vetted by County commissions, and the County Board held a public hearing.