The Washington Post

Columbia Pike residents plan for the future

Hundreds of Columbia Pike area residents have been designing their neighborhoods for the future in a week-long charrette with county planners and urban design experts.

The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan is part of a larger effort to revitalize the road. Residents weighed in on where new streets could be developed to provide for a grid network, how new mixed-income residential buildings could support affordable housing and how to better plan around the coming streetcar line, among other ideas.

The potential Barcroft community in the future. (Arlington County’s Barcroft community now.)

Residents have been working with the county for years to create a new Columbia Pike and have expert knowledge, said County Board chairman Christopher Zimmerman.

“The degree of consensus on a set of values was striking,” he said. ”I think that is why this sort of thing is successful...It is your plan. We are going to do what this community wants,” he said.

Residents agreed on goals on which to base their plans, including sustainable, diverse neighborhoods that include more parks and encourage connectivity and walkability. Design teams led residents through options and listened to them to formulate ideas. Thursday night, the designers presented some preliminary thoughts to about 100 people.

“Recognize the things you do now, others will benefit from,” said Victor Dover with Dover, Kohl and Partners, an urban design firm working with the county. “This is a very long-term process.”

Historic buildings within the Barcroft neighborhood could be saved while adding potential redevelopment along the pike, Dover said. Dorchester Towers could be changed in the future, but smaller buildings could be added to the current landscape to change the street perspective, he said.

In addition to the planned streetcar line, residents wanted to create continuous routes that parallel Columbia Pike on 9th and 12th streets as local routes.

They worked to identify areas that could become “complete streets,” said Ian M. Lockwood, a consultant designer with AECOM. “Not just technically usable, but actually comfortable” street networks, he said.

Within Foxcroft, planners proposed adding commercial nodes along the pike and worked to reduce cut-through traffic in neighborhoods by allowing two-way traffic at Southgate Road and Columbia Pike. Throughout the corridor, streets could be narrowed to county limits to slow traffic, but still include parking and trees.

There are about 4.5 acres of trees and green space per 1,000 residents within the Columbia Pike corridor, said Nicholas D. Kuhn, a landscape architect with AECOM. Residents to maintain that, but also find areas to add to that acreage.

Planned plazas at Penrose Square, for example, could get “beefed up,” he said. Existing parks could acquire more land and asphalt could be replaced with greenery to expand the public’s open space, Kuhn said.

“People here, they care. They recognize there are problems,” said Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “This whole exercise is so all our neighbors can slide into the shoes of the next neighbors” and create better neighborhoods, he said.

Comments are being accepted by the plenary group and design team at



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