Greater Greater Washington

Public Spaces


Arlington's Court House parking lot will become a park

Arlington may be a paragon of Smart Growth and sustainable transportation, but if you go to the county offices at Court House, a giant surface parking lot dominates the landscape. That could soon change with recommendations to turn it into a new town green with parking below.


All images from Arlington County.

County planners presented three options last night which incorporated input from a task force and the public. All three options keep most or all of the current parking lot as a new green, with only small amounts of parking at surface level.


Courthouse Square today and the parcels for possible redevelopment.

They mainly differ in minor aspects of the layout. Concept A is oriented more north-south, B diagonal, and C east-west. They all recommend development on the Verizon plaza south of 14th Street, and redeveloping some of the nearby buildings, though with varying options for where to put taller buildings versus shorter ones.

The county would also move office space into one of the new buildings. On Option C, that could include an "iconic wing" at the southern end of the square; in exchange, some of what's now the AMC theater would become open space as part of the plaza, with a small "market shed" near where the theater now stands. The other options would leave all of the current parking lot as open space.


View concept: A   B   C  

County staff emphasized that, as with many of these studies that create a few options, the options simply illustrate various pieces that planners can ultimately mix and match.

They will seek feedback in person and through an online survey to develop a final plan, which they will show to community groups in September and October, the Planning Commission in November, and bring to the County Board in December.

What do you think would be the best design for the square?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

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I think putting a park in this location is a great idea and it would get quite a bit of use. This area is in need of a good central neighborhood park. However, I question the necessity of replacing the parking that was on the surface with a garage below. I haven't looked over the analysis, but are these spots really necessary? Is it worth it to have the induced demand created by making more parking available in a location that will be served by two metro lines next week? I know there is an existing public garage right around the corner.

by alex on Jul 24, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

Similarly, they could just add the parking spots loss (totally not necessary btw) by adding it piecemeal into development projects around there rather than doing a dedicated project.

What's the deal with the theater? Is the expectation that the county would buy the land it sits on or did that happen a while back? It's a pretty big deal if one of the plans actually envisions it being completely gone.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2014 4:01 pm • linkreport

While I am normally no fan of parking in highly transit-accessible areas, I do think that it's kind of important to have easily available public parking that is very close to important civic functions like the courthouse and county offices. While much of Arlington is transit and bike-friendly, there are a lot of people who rely on cars to get around. That lot is usually pretty full. It's of course a horrible use of the space currently, I simply think that a redevelopment should include parking as part of the equation. The planners seem to understand this. I'm excited about the project.

by Zach on Jul 24, 2014 4:07 pm • linkreport

as long as they make up for the parking elsewhere, i am fine with the plan

by Uncle Toby on Jul 24, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Zach:

I agree there should be some parking for people that need it, but there's already a public garage right nearby that's actually free after a certain time. If that garage fills up, maybe instead of creating more cheap parking the cost of that parking should just go up?

by alex on Jul 24, 2014 4:22 pm • linkreport

I like B and C better than A. Some parking there is, and will continue to be, useful. A park at surface makes much more sense that the surface lot.

by dcseain on Jul 24, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

I like the green space setup and wrap around of the theater in option A -- I don't see a reason to relocate or remove the theater. I think option B best addresses the traffic pattern concerns at Uhle, 15th, and the awful intersection of Wilson/Clarendon/Veitch/15th. Option C best connects the existing square on the SE corner of the county building with the new open space, but is it worth tearing down the theater (and relocating it)?

by speaketh on Jul 24, 2014 5:16 pm • linkreport

Regarding parking, I think replacing the existing surface lot 1:1 underground is too much, and removing it without replacement is too little. Ideally, I would like to see the garage provide adequate handicap accessible spots (with elevator access) and county/police vehicle storage. This way the surrounding streets can have normal (paid) parallel parking again, instead of the mishmash of county vehicle and police parking area. Street (or similar level of convenience) parking is what local businesses want anyway, since that encourages the consumer to make an impulse stop in a way that driving down into a garage never can.

by speaketh on Jul 24, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

@speaketh, putting the county vehicles and special needs in a garage to free up street parking makes a lot of sense to me.

by dcseain on Jul 24, 2014 5:55 pm • linkreport

+1 for speaketh and the comment re: street parking allowing better whim of the moment purchases and thus putting govt vehicles below ground.

by JDC on Jul 24, 2014 7:24 pm • linkreport

Meantime, I read Petworth is having its community garden paved over for a school parking lot.

by Jazzy on Jul 24, 2014 7:41 pm • linkreport

Yes, I've had jury duty there, and some parking needs to be available. I was actually able to bike for my jury duty because it was nice weather, but I would have driven if it had been raining or ridiculously hot, and you can't expect to summon people for jury duty and not have a place for them to park.

by DE on Jul 25, 2014 8:20 am • linkreport

Nice park, shame about the homeless people who will be the only ones who get to use it.

by charlie on Jul 25, 2014 9:05 am • linkreport

Indeed it is a shame that in America some people go homeless. I am glad Arlington is helping to create housing for them.

by CrossingBrooklynFerry on Jul 25, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

This might be the one case I would advocate replacing the existing parking elsewhere, but a park on the surface would be a vast improvement over the current arrangement. Lots of people use the existing lot for county and court-related business, so it makes sense to keep that parking available.

by John M. on Jul 25, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

I'd prefer to see the entire lot, with its prime location above a Metro station, redeveloped rather than turned into a park.

by AM on Jul 25, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

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