When the Arlington County Board was planning for development along the Orange Metro line in 1975, it took a lesson from Rosslyn, the county's skycraper canyon of concrete and glass on the edge of the Potomac.
"We learned from Rosslyn that if you don't keep people living in the area, it goes dead at night and we didn't want that to happen elsewhere," said County Board Chairman Ellen M. Bozman.
"We wanted and we needed mixed use up and down the corridor" that runs about three miles along Wilson Boulevard, she said. "And we wanted to get people conveniently located near to where they work so we would have a much more livable community."
On Monday night, the board is scheduled to take a step toward that goal when it considers what county officials call a "sector plan" for the Virginia Square Metro station.
The plan is supposed to be a detailed framework for future development around the station on Fairfax Drive, covering everything from building densities to shade trees and plazas.
Unlike the other Arlington Metro stops, where large-scale commercial and office developments have been encouraged, the Virginia Square plan calls for retaining a largely residential character in the surrounding area. The emphasis, officials say, will be on cultural, educational and recreational land uses and some limited high-rise development directly opposite the Metro station.
"We really want to have a residential area at Virginia Square," said Catherine DeScisciolo, president of the Ashton Heights Civic Association, from the single-family neighborhood south of Virginia Square. "Arlington needs it and this is the ideal place for it."
The Virginia Square theme was selected because of the nature of the neighborhood, which includes the George Mason University Law School, Arlington's central library, a park, the Arlington Arts Center, and many detached, single-family homes.
"We haven't had an erosion of the single-family neighborhoods in that area as we have in the other (Metro stop) areas and the intent of the board was to keep it that way," said County Board Member Dorothy T. Grotos.
Each of the other six Orange Line stations in Arlington is supposed is to have its own theme. The Courthouse stop, for example, will be the governmental center, and Clarendon is intended to have an international theme spiced with boutiques and restaurants.
While all the stops are expected to emphasize more residential development than Rosslyn, the pressure from real estate developers has been for high-rise office buildings at all the stations. As the stations have opened, the nearby single-family detached housing has become increasingly threatened.
This has not happened in the Virginia Square area, where more than 2,100 residents live in dwellings that account for almost half of the neighborhood's 169 acres.
There has been little controversy in area around Virginia Square over the proposed sector plan because it preserves the area's single-family neighborhoods. Residents there feel strongly about controversial development plans for a 16.5-acre parcel bounded by Washington Boulevard, Fairfax Drive, Kirkwood Road and North Monroe Street.
At the heart of the issue coming before the County Board Monday night is how much and what kind of development should be allowed on the tract directly across the street from the Metro station. The tract includes a Giant Food Store, which has become the focus of the neighborhood's concern.
"The key issue in this (sector plan) is the treatment of the supermarket. We are absolutely adamant that the existing use of a supermarket be retained," said Ken Ingram, president of the Ballston-Clarendon Civic Association, whose members helped collect more than 6,300 signatures in favor of keeping a supermarket in the area.
In order to encourage residential development in Metro station areas, Ingram, Bozman and others say neighborhood stores like supermarkets, drugstores and dry cleaners must be maintained.
The Giant, which has a lease on the site to year 2020, says it would like to stay there, but residents fear that it could be closed because Giant rents the parking lot for its store and it could loose it to developers.
The George Mason University Foundation, which owns six acres adjacent to the law school primarily used for parking, has plans to build two 14-story office buildings and one 10-story residential building. The shopping center's owners have also discussed preliminary plans for one 16-story and two 12-story office buildings.
Neither of the proposals includes a supermarket, nor is there one planned for the state-owned five acres where the law school is located or on the 2.5 acres owned by six small businesses.
Martin D. Walsh, an attorney for both the foundation and shopping center, said: "They'll come to some peaceful coexistence. It's a matter of their sitting down together and coming up with a resolution."
The County Board is being asked to consider giving the developers additional density rights in exchange for keeping a supermarket on the site or in the immediate area. The board is also being asked to consider a similar swap for the inclusion of a possible cultural center on the site.
Bozman said she expects the board will discuss those proposals at Monday's meeting, but will not act on them until specific development plans are submitted.
The board is expected, however, to designate sites for 12-story office buildings and 16-story residential buildings. The tallest buildings would be concentrated on Fairfax Drive and then taper down as they approach the residential neighborhoods.