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Help Arlington "realize" Rosslyn's full potential

Rosslyn is booming with new buildings, new amenities, and new infrastructure. But what's missing? Better restaurants? A more prominent skyline? More lively public spaces? Planners for Arlington's Realize Rosslyn plan hope you'll tell them at public events today and on Saturday.

Possible design for Rosslyn's Gateway Park. Image by Arlington County.

Rosslyn has historically been an office-heavy counterpoint to the cultural and entertainment destinations in nearby Georgetown. But with strong growth underway, and even more to come, Rosslyn is beginning to come into its own as a cultural destination itself.

In the past 10 years, hundreds of new condos, apartments, and hotel rooms have opened in Rosslyn, plus hundreds of thousands of square feet of new offices. This coming Monday, the Rosslyn Metro station's new second entrance will open. Artisphere is a great gallery and program space, and events like the Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival and the Rosslyn Jazz Festival provide cultural value and entertainment. Once it opens, the views from Rosslyn's public observation deck will be unmatched in the region.

Yet there is still much to do. The growing number of Rosslyn residents and workers need more and better public spaces. The transportation network must be reconfigured to better serve internal circulation, rather than merely funnel traffic through. And Rosslyn's retail and restaurant offerings need to serve sit-down evening and weekend users as well as they serve fast-casual work day ones.

To work all this out, Arlington is updating its 1992 Rosslyn Sector Plan Addendum. The new Realize Rosslyn plan will fine tune the next 25 years of development.

Possible design for Rosslyn's 17th Street gateway. Image by Arlington County.

Realize Rosslyn kicked off in December 2012. Since then, planners have been working to identify issues and outline future alternatives.

Now they're ready to hear back. Planners are hoping to gather feedback at events today and tomorrow. Specifically, Arlington is hoping for guidance on:

  • Translating proposed design ideas into an action plan.
  • The potential shape of Rosslyn's skyline, and preservation of key view corridors
  • Possibilities for a new 18th Street corridor through Rosslyn's core
  • Transformation of Fort Myer Drive and Lynn Street into more complete streets
  • New destinations for outdoor events, including a re-imagined Gateway Park and an esplanade connecting Rosslyn to the Potomac River
Today's open house is at the Rosslyn BID offices at 1911 N. Fort Myer Drive, and runs from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Tomorrow there will be a more organized community workshop in the Artisphere ballroom, at 1101 Wilson Blvd, from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm.

To learn more about the Realize Rosslyn planning process, visit the project website, and check out this Arlington TV clip.

Kellie Brown is an Associate Planner in the Arlington County Planning Division. She has been active in the Lee Highway civic engagement effort and lives in Lyon Park. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Maryland.  


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Rosslyn has already come a long way compared to ten years ago.

by WFY on Oct 4, 2013 9:49 am • linkreport

Figure out better ways to connect to the river (huge barriers with 66 and GW parkway though.

Do whatever it takes to improve the bike/ped experience (the sudden elevation changes are a challenge but not impossible).

The sky line is a great asset, but the ground level is just as important. Mix the uses. Don't let the zoning prohibit things that would bring people to the area.

Also, it'd be great if the open houses were extended a little bit. It's hard to make it out in the middle of the day on a friday. It doesn't need to be an "event" per se, just keep the door to the office open and let people look around at what's coming up and let them sign in/up for chances to participate more fully.

by drumz on Oct 4, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

Street shade trees would be nice, put the streets on a diet (narrow them and widen sidewalks). And get rid of the skywalks!

by DCguy on Oct 4, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

More restaurants would be nice. Last time I went to Artisphere in the evening on a weekend (granted, this was almost two years ago) I ate dinner with a friend in Courthouse before proceeding down to Artisphere. I know there were some places catering to the lunch crowd, but a variety of things geared towards an evening out would be useful.

Also, how's Artisphere being used? It's been a few months since I was there, and I really felt that it was underutilized at the time. Figuring out what to do with that would be great, too.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Oct 4, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

As yes, the public observation deck. Lovely that Virginia gets to reap another benefit from DC's height limit.

by Adam L on Oct 4, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Rosslyn needs to desperately work on its traffic flow - all modes.

Cars: They need to figure out a way to get rid of many of the traffic lights, and keep traffic flowing more than is the case now. There are simple things that can be done like closing 17th & 19th between Lynn and Ft Myer. Closing Moore between US-29 and Wilson for cars leaving it to transit, cabs, bikes and pedestrians. There should be a proper cab stand and Kiss&Ride, so that cabs pick-ups are better organized.

The US-50 & Lynn/Meade intersection also needs improvement. I am not sure how.

I have dreamt about making all of Rosslyn from Key Bridge to Wilson or even Fairfax Dr one huge loop without inner streets, so that traffic can always flow. But I am not sure that could work.

Bikes: Clearly indicated and respected bike lanes are needed. Respected by cars and bikers alike.

Pedestrians: Several of the transit streets could turn very pedestrian-friendly, almost woonerf-like, especially if bus drivers can be convinced to just roll slowly.

by Jasper on Oct 4, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

Get rid of the "Anna and David" sculpture on Wilson Ave. Nothing detracts from Rosslyn more than its truly awful public art.

by bm on Oct 4, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

It's tempting to try to make traffic "flow" in Rosslyn but I think that kind of thinking is what caused a lot of the problems in the first place. More through streets and a more regular grid would be ideal, but it may be too late for that because of existing development.

by jimble on Oct 4, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

@bm: I don't know. That art seemed pretty unoffensive if mediocre to me when I lived there. I was far more annoyed at the way the building behind it makes no attempt to interact with the street at all.

@jimble: I agree that chasing traffic flow shouldn't really be a priority. Wilson and Clarendon should definitely see much less use as through streets, not more. The whole practice of turning those streets into one-way racetracks was probably a contributing factor to the recent state of Rosslyn for non-automotive traffic.

by Gray on Oct 4, 2013 11:17 am • linkreport

Rosslyn has to compete against the successful destination neighborhoods of Clarendon/Ct House, Georgetown, and Foggy Bttm (all of which are immediately adjacent). The steep hills throughout the neighborhood also discourage leisurely street wandering/shopping. It'll never been a entertainment district, but could be made more pleasant with better architecture, more trees, and more public events (maybe an annual artosphere-hosted street fair?)

by Adam on Oct 4, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

The thing about the Clarendon/Wilson split is that both have pretty nice wide bike lanes on top of the hill and to my eye (I'm not a traffic engineer) it'd be a harder fit for the same bike facilities if both roads were converted back to two way. It's not impossible but it'd require a lot effort and commitment to a complete street.

by drumz on Oct 4, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

I'm sure it makes some happy, but I have always felt like it's too bad that #1 people in this area are so opposed and obsessive over building heights and their supposed affects - DC proper aside, and #2 that Rosslyn is in the National Airport flight path. I would love to see 500 foot tall buildings in Rosslyn. The recently topped out 1812 North Moore is not nearly as prominent as renderings show, and not surprisingly because it is only around 390 feet tall. Looks like Tysons Corner is the only place in the area where we will break the 400 foot mark by 25 feet because of 25 foot penthouses. At least in Tysons, these buildings will be built on prominent hills with elevations that are some of the highest in the area. In Rosslyn, all you get is 470 feet ASL and the ground is no less than 80 feet in most of the commercial areas, preventing 400 foot buildings.

by xtr657 on Oct 4, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

If I lived in Rosslyn I would want to see wider sidewalks, more trees, better public art, and a sky or aerial tramway connecting it to Georgetown.

by DCJWalkr on Oct 4, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

I'm not categorically opposed to a tramway between VA and DC but I don't think it should be a municipal funding priority.

There are basically two contexts for it:
A: you need to get up a steep mountain
B: one point is so disconnected that its easier just to do a transfer/quick trip on the tramway to get to where you're going. (example: Roosevelt island which is pretty small so no need to have multiple stops like train would provide. Or the aerial tram in London which is pretty much focused on the arena on the "wrong" side of the river).

Rosslyn/GT doesn't really fit into either one of those so I'm not sure it's the best solution in terms of transportation. We've already got a pretty wide bridge connecting the two areas, it's full potential may be realized by speeding up bus service or some sort of streetcar.

by drumz on Oct 4, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

I forgot an item in my earlier post:

Transit: There need to be dedicated bus lanes, so that buses can cut trough the traffic much faster.

by Jasper on Oct 4, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Also, how would a separate blue line help rosslyn? Having a location that could provide a one seat ride to both Reagan/National and Union Station would be pretty sweet.

Or a Rosslyn Wye that would allow Silver/Orange line trains to travel down to Alexandria.

by drumz on Oct 4, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

A tramway added as a upper level over key bridge but extended from Gateway Park to Key Memorial could work quite well.

by DCJWalkr on Oct 4, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@ drumz:Also, how would a separate blue line help rosslyn?

Not sure it would help Rosslyn. It will help the metrosystem.

How would you get from Rosslyn to Union Station with a wye?

by Jasper on Oct 4, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Two separate things. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear.

But I can't see a reason why it would harm Rosslyn to basically be an even bigger transit hub than it already is. Of course you still have to get the land-use right.

by drumz on Oct 4, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

@ drumz:I can't see a reason why it would harm Rosslyn to basically be an even bigger transit hub than it already is.


by Jasper on Oct 4, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

The biggest problem in Rosslyn is the tall buildings aren't nice to be around. , The noise for the planes is bounced around.

Historically the people who worked their were all second-tier government types and couldn't support a restaurant culture. Except for the Orleans house. Now CEB/KPMG are bringing younger people in, but there still isn't much a scene to attract residents. That may be changing for the better but not enough to support too much high end residential.

Upper Rosslyn/West Rosslyn has been ignored by the county for years, but has a lot of new residential coming in. Don't miss the opportunity to get rid of the homeless there, and also the low income housing. Kill the 7-11 as well and you'll solve a lot of problems.

Yep the public art is atrocious, with the exception of the waving panels at the dip. sec building.

I really miss the location in Rosslyn (lived there for 15 years). Other than BWI, it made getting almost everywhere in the metro area easy. The noise (and pollution) from planes is great to get away from.

by charlie on Oct 4, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Well besides the lamentable architecture, I think the fact that Rosslyn is hemmed in by three highways doesn't really help the situation. When you are close the highway, people keep the highway traffic mentality. Courthouse is much nicer and so is Ballston despite being a pretty tall part of town.

by BTA on Oct 4, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@BTA - perhaps. But I do feel like a change for the better has come in of late. It's not the Rosslyn I remember from my's nowhere near the other neighborhoods of central Arlington, yet, but it's a lot more interesting than it used to be. I hope they can keep improving it.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Oct 4, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@BTA; Ballston is a shithole compared to Rosslyn. Sorry, the problem is again the building size. And you lose the accessibility.

And I have no idea what it means to be living next to a highway and having a highway traffic mentality.

Clarendon is your best bet with building size, although the new one they are constructing is throwing things off a lot.

by charlie on Oct 4, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Rosslyn has changed a LOT. The North Rosslyn Civic Association (NRCA) has analyzed Arlington County real estate records and compiled residential demographics for the NRCA area which lies to the north of Wilson BLVD and to the West of Quinn St. In this very small area there are 1,749 housing units mostly apartments, condos and town homes. About 3,500 people live in this area and have money to spend on restaurant food, grocery shopping and entertainment. Unfortunately most businesses cater to the office workers and close in the afternoon leaving the residents no choice but to walk to Georgetown or Courthouse or Clarendon or metro to DC in the evenings. In North Rosslyn the tax base in 1999 for Residential Property was a touch over $1.5 million. The residential property tax base in 2013 is a little over $9.9 million. The population base that sustains this kind of tax base needs much better retail and entertainment than now exists. Now is the time to redesign Rosslyn to support both the office workers with budget lunch options and the growing residential population that would like more choices than budget lunches and the sleazy Safeway on Wilson Blvd for grocery shopping.

It would also be nice to see planning for much improved access to the river area, especially Roosevelt Island. Plans to integrate pedestrian and bicycle access to Iwo Jima, Arlington Cemetery and the Roosevelt bridge would better connect NOVA to DC. Rosslyn and Court House residents should be able to bike or walk to the Kennedy Center.

Traffic calming on Ft. Myer drive at the west entrance to the Rosslyn Metro Station is desperately needed. Hundreds of people play dodge-car day and night to across this heavily traveled street. Just last week a pedestrian was struck by a car while crossing Ft. Myer Drive from the Metro west entrance. There is no good pedestrian access available at this time. The community is lobbying for a HAWK crossing for this most dangerous area but are told there is "no budget" even though annual property taxes paid by the residents in this area have increased by over 600% since 1999. The skywalk is available but access from the street on the west side of Ft. Myer is sub-optimal and the metro is taking out the plaza escalator to make way for a Commuter Store, which would have been much better positioned adjacent to the 3 new high speed escalators that start operation on Monday.

Hopefully the session on Saturday will provide a chance for input on the needs of the residents and workers in this community. Needs which are more than just becoming an attractive skyline for DC to look at across the river!

by Paul on Oct 4, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

Rosslyn's potential is pretty limited, although it could be a better place than it is now. The fundamentals are weak--it's hemmed in geographically. The rents and the setting preclude the kind of interesting places that even Georgetown still manages to birth. Beyond the takeout/lunch places, the chains will stick to the Clarendon corridor. Wider sidewalks will just accentuate how dead it is most of the day. Better pedestrian flow is an option and probably the best thing that could be done. The park is unattractive even to the homeless and like a bad 1960s urban renewal project--pretty on paper, but cold and lifeless in practice. It would work better if it better tied peripherals like the Marriott to the Metro, but much of it could be incorporated into some sort of mixed use project. If the hotels were better integrated, they might help attract a decent dinner time restaurant or two, although I doubt it. Housing has failed to liven up the palce and highlights the simulataneous strength and weakness of the place--it's the ultimate compromise: major Metro stop, close to Georgetown and Clarendon, and inoffensive and uninspiring. there's a market for that but it isn't a market that will make Rosslyn hugely different.

by Rich on Oct 4, 2013 6:49 pm • linkreport

I think BTA's on to something. Rosslyn could be an awsome walking neighborhood in a hill town/San Francisco sort of way with its topography and narrow streets. Unfortunatley, a lot of its architecture is off the shelf 1970's modernism. The blank walls and parking entrances reflect peoples' additudes towards cities during a time when no one was expected to walk. Being DC's NYC, Rosslyn has an identity from afar, but if they retrofited these buildings at the street level and improved the overall sidewalk experience, it would go a long way despite the height.

The architecture and spagetti road configuration at the head of Key Bridge make this one of the biggest missed opportunities in the region. By using the differing elevations they could bury some roads and create a pleasant pedestrian link between Court House and Georgetown.

by Thayer-D on Oct 4, 2013 8:32 pm • linkreport

My wife and I ended up in west Rosslyn (Key/Quinn) for the last two years. I think Rosslyn (and west Rosslyn especially) is somewhat underrated - it was a nice residential street, not much traffic, very convenient location to a Metro hub, the highway(s), and to Courthouse/Clarendon. The airplane noise was killer at first but we got used to it.

Still, some things stick out as major places to improve:
- Connection to Marine Corps Memorial park area. Easily walkable in terms of time, but really unpleasant along Ft. Myer and crossing 50. That park should be a huge asset to the area with good pedestrian connections from "downtown".

- Need a decent grocery store. The Safeway was walkable from our house but we found ourselves driving just to shop elsewhere.

- Gateway Park needs a ton of help. Clearly people already know this but it bears repeating. Any news on the air rights east and west of there? I've wondered if enclosing the park on three sides (maybe even building on the western half while activating that circle to the north as shown in the rendering here) wouldn't help it feel more like a park "in Rosslyn" rather than just a mass of low landscaping sandwiched between Lee Highway. And much more of a gateway coming from Georgetown.

by Jack on Oct 4, 2013 11:26 pm • linkreport

Rosslyn will get more amenities oriented toward residents as it gets more residents. Looking at prices for residences, Rosslyn is ripe for more residential development. Enhancing the pedestrian experience will only strengthen that, as well as leading to existing residents being more likely to use amenities in the neighborhood, and making it more attractive for folks from elsewhere. Enhancing the walking and biking experience will better connect the entire RB corridor to DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Oct 5, 2013 7:38 am • linkreport

Better way for buses to get around the Rosslyn Station, instead of making loops around blocks due to one way streets. Maybe have one way streets have a bus lane going in the opposite direction.

Make North Moore Street between Wilson Blvd and 19th Street Metro Bus only, place bus bays on both sides of the street so that buses traveling on Lee Highway, GW Parkway and toward DC don't have to make a bunch of loops around one way streets to get to the station and could just make a left off of Wilson Blvd

Expand the skywalks to a point where they are useful or get rid of them

by kk on Oct 6, 2013 9:02 am • linkreport

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