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
- We envision a Sector featuring cultural, educational, and
recreational facilities in a setting which provides quality of
life to all residents, neighbors, visitors, and workers alike.
The historic Churches at the west and east ends with their places
of worship, schooling and community service will be preserved.
- There will be a focal area with a lively community
atmosphere with facilities appealing to the neighborhood and
visitors alike. It will be located as close as possible to the
Metro square, and will be easily accessible to those who come by
foot, public transit, and wheeled conveyances.
- A central feature will be a community cultural/performing
arts center, hitherto lacking in Arlington. The facility will
have space for music and theater groups and other cultural
activities. In addition to its proximity to the Metro, it will
have parking in the building or nearby for patrons who must drive
and for other needed public uses.
- The buildings and passageways throughout the Sector will be
visually appealing as well as functionally designed.
- Pedestrian use will be maintained and enhanced. Subway
ridership will be encouraged. Parking will be available for
residents and visitors who must drive.
- Mixed use buildings will facilitate convenient location for
neighborhood retail services. Destination retail will be limited
to that consonant with facilities designed to attract
- Multi-unit residential development will include affordable
living units on site. Single family dwellings in the area will
- Development will be consistent with the sector and general
land use plans. Variances will be granted only in exceptional
- Retention of medical quarters will be encouraged, with ample
access for patients including those who must come by car.
- George Mason University will continue to provide the primary
educational focus for the Sector. The University's planned
development will facilitate an increased integration into the
life of the community.
With the Vision as set forth above, we offer the following
principal recommendations (and more detailed views in the
attached subcommittee reports):
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Ensure continuation of medical/dental services in Virginia
Square with adequate parking for patients, doctors and staff.
- 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.