A plan to revitalize the Columbia Pike took another step forward in early July when the County Board approved the second project to be built under Arlington’s form-based Zoning Code.
“It will certainly be an attractive building, and it will be a bonus for the Pike,” said John Kirkpatrick, of the Columbia Forest Civic Association. The new building will fall within the boundaries of Kirkpatrick’s association.
The project, called Columbia Village, was approved by the County Board on July 9. Now on the site, at the corner of Columbia Pike and South Greenbrier Street, is a three-story commercial building which will be torn down.
In its place will rise a 10-story, U-shaped building. The opening of the “U” will point away from Greenbrier Street, said Richard Tucker, Columbia Pike Initiative coordinator for Arlington County.
The building will likely include up to 272 condominiums, which will range in size from 750 to 1,200 square feet. The ground floor will include the lobby for the condominiums and some retail stores. The developer, Trammell Crow Residential, has yet to decide how the retail space will be split and how many stores there will be, said Sean Caldwell of Trammell Crow.
Trammell Crow hopes to break ground on the new building within nine months and anticipates construction to take about 18 months, once it begins, Caldwell said.
Rather than the current building, which is set back from the street behind a parking lot, the new building will be only the width of the sidewalk away from the Columbia Pike. This type of design strives to encourage a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
The developer will also provide amenities such as trees, sidewalks and other plantings to make the area more pleasant for walkers.
THE BUILDING IS the second being developed under the Columbia Pike Form-Based Code. Form-based zoning is becoming increasingly popular in developing urban areas. Traditional zoning, called Euclidean zoning after the town of Euclid, Ohio, focuses on the use of the land. Commonly, Euclidean zoning mandates the kind of development (residential, commercial or industrial) and how dense that development may be.
A form-based code instead focuses on the look of the project. In some cases they can get down to the details such as the shape of the windows. However, it allows broad latitude in the use. Under this code, the neighbors and county officials can, in essence, design how they want their neighborhood to look.
These codes are also used in areas where governments want to encourage redevelopment, such as Columbia Pike. The Columbia Pike plan established four separate areas under the code, Tucker said. The spaces in between these are primarily residential, and the county does not really want to encourage a lot of redevelopment in them, Tucker said.
The overall intent of the code worked well, Caldwell said. “The Form-Based Code was very clear in establishing the macro objectives,” he said. “I think that the intent of the form-based code has a lot of merit to it,” said Caldwell. “The community wanted to see redevelopment.”
“We think it's been a good example of the form-based code,” Kirkpatrick said. He said that the process of approving the building worked very well.
One problem Caldwell noted, however, is that the details were too vague. “It left for a lot of room for interpretation,” Caldwell said. “It was a bit of a struggle making sure that all parties agreed we did meet the form-based code.”
Kirkpatrick agreed that there was a lot of back-and-forth before a final project was approved. “We had to work very closely with the developer,” he said.
The project went through about six different designs before everyone was happy with the proposal, Caldwell said.
The code seems to be achieving its goal of encouraging redevelopment, Tucker said. Besides this project, there are four or five others on Columbia Pike under development, said Tucker. “The code has sparked a lot of interest on the Pike,” said Tucker. “Certainly more than in the last 20 years.”