Virginia Square Sector Plan Review Committee


Virginia Square is a vital and unique sector in Arlington's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Seventeen years ago the County adopted a Plan: Virginia Square was to be Arlington's "center for cultural, educational and recreational activities."

Since then development in the area has proceeded apace. Some of the construction has been in accord with the 1983 vision. Some of it has not, limiting the possibilities for achieving the original goals. Now a final surge of building is underway which soon will consume the remaining developable space. What is done in the very near future will stamp a lasting imprint on the character of the Sector as a whole.

By January of 2000, it became apparent to members of the Virginia Square community that the time was at hand for an urgent review of what has happened since the 1980s and of what possibilities remain ahead. Is the Sector Plan still valid in the light of experience? What modifications may be needed? What vision can be embraced which will be realistic in view of remaining opportunities? It was to answer these questions that the Sector Plan Review Committee was formed.

The Committee is comprised of citizens from a wide spectrum of organizations concerned with Virginia Square. We believe our vision and recommendations will benefit not only the Virginia Square area but also Arlington as a whole. We look forward to working with County staff on the Sector Plan Review process.

Our vision includes practical steps that must be taken for its fulfillment. Critical among them is provision for parking to enable sufficient patronage of the Sector's facilities. Public transport to Virginia Square must be improved. Opportunities for sites for buildings meeting Sector objectives must be identified. Close coordination with major institutions within the Sector such as George Mason University will increase the usefulness of other facilities outside the campus grounds. Improvement is needed in Virginia Square neighborhood participation with the County in the development process. The County must be pro-active in promoting achievement of Sector goals and vigilant against non-conforming building. Regulations intended to protect and enhance the area must be enforced.

While the Virginia Square boundary technically is the triangle bounded by North Quincy Street, Wilson Boulevard and Washington Boulevard, we include in our vision the immediately adjacent strips along the two Boulevards extending west from the Clarendon apex. It is to their benefit and to the Sector's to fit in with the larger view.

A 21st Century Vision for Virginia Square

The underlying goal for Virginia Square remains as meritorious now as when it was drafted nearly two decades ago. Arlington needs a cultural, educational, and recreational center. We must hold fast to this target, not stray from it, as we move ahead.


With the Vision as set forth above, we offer the following principal recommendations (and more detailed views in the attached subcommittee reports):

  1. Establish a community cultural/performing arts center near the Metro site which will be a focal point for Virginia Square. The center will offer facilities for plays, concerts, lectures, classes, and other cultural activities for the community and Arlingtonians generally, a center which the County lacks now. The County Board should amend the land use plan to designate land in this area for a community/cultural center A parking garage to accommodate arts patrons would be part of the center, or nearby, and would also serve other activities in the vicinity whose viability must include parking access.

  2. Construct a parking garage as part of the cultural/performing arts center or nearby to help meet critical needs including those of the two churches, the medical building, the Arts Center, the potential GMU overflow, and retail/commercial development. The garage would be a vital component of improved access to the sector generally, including pedestrian passage and bus service. The garage can be publicly, privately, or mix-financed. Developers should be required to provide shared parking and/or contribute to a parking fund.

  3. Improve pedestrian passage and safety with streetscape and infrastructure and upgrading on Wilson and Washington Blvds. and the intersecting streets. Create the 9th St. Greenway. Underground all utilities. Support shuttle bus-type service for the area.

  4. Preserve and maintain all existing park spaces in the Virginia Square area, which are increasingly vital for present residents and the thousands who will come with the further influx of high-rise housing. Require as a site plan condition significant green space for any new residential or commercial building.

  5. Promote retail viability of the Virginia Square Sector by revitalizing connector routes and establishing a "core retail area" defined by Wilson Blvd., Monroe St., Washington Blvd., and Jackson St. Enhance/encourage retail along Fairfax Dr., with focus adjacent to the Metro.

  6. Maintain a strong commitment to affordable housing on-site in the Virginia Square area in policy and concrete action. Affordable housing should be a quid pro quo requirement for any zoning variance.

  7. Ensure continuation of medical/dental services in Virginia Square with adequate parking for patients, doctors and staff.

  8. Coordinate George Mason University's development with the Virginia Square community to the maximum possible extent. Develop a community approach to dealing with overflow parking from GMU, including participation in a public parking facility helping to meet the sector's cultural/commercial/residential needs as well as GMU's. Share GMU parking with the community when possible. Integrate community use of GMU's future performance facilities and galleries with the proposed community cultural/performing arts center at Virginia Square.

In conclusion, we express appreciation to all who have contributed so much to our proceedings. The outpouring of citizen support has been beyond expectations. We likewise are grateful for the interest of Board Members and for the assistance from County staff. We look forward to prompt progress on our recommendations.

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