Greater Greater Washington

Development


Plan would reconnect East Falls Church, fill empty spaces

Arlington County is seeking public input for a plan to redevelop the East Falls Church area, embracing the mixed-use development that is the standard at other Metro stations in the county, and connecting the station area with better bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

The overall vision is to guide redevelopment of the Metro station parking lot and other likely nearby sites in a transit-oriented manner.

The East Falls Church Planning Task Force, a joint committee with representatives from local Arlington and Falls Church neighborhood groups, as well as WMATA, VDOT and local staff representatives, will host forums at Tuckahoe Elementary School from 7-9 pm on April 29 (tonight) and Tuesday, May 4.

Likely redevelopment sites include the Metro parking lots, a Verizon switching station parking lot (currently unused), a gas station, two banks with surface parking lots, a used car lot, a home heating oil storage and transfer facility, and poorly used open space.


Development sites in the central sections of the East Falls Church plan.

The East Falls Church area had historically been a railroad commuter town, named after its train station on the Washington and Old Dominion line. Three rail systems, the W&OD, the Arlington and Falls Church trolley and the Southern Railway served the area, with the last system added in 1895. In 1951, passenger service at the station shut down, and in 1982, the core of what was a small downtown area was removed to make way for Interstate 66.

In 1986, rail service was restored when the East Falls Church Metro station opened. What remains is a grid-pattern residential community with 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s brick homes on a grid pattern oriented toward the freeway. Some of the larger parcels have been redeveloped into townhomes or medium-density condos. I live in a townhome built in 1976 inside the study area.

The plan incorporates many features that are common throughout Arlington. Wider sidewalks, on-street parking, bike lanes and bulb-outs are planned, making intersections more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Travel lanes for cars will be narrowed from 13 feet to 10 feet in many places, which has a psychological effect on drivers and reduces their average travel speed.

New bicycle and pedestrian connections will be built across I-66, which divides the formerly cohesive community in two. The Metro station will get a new entrance at the opposite end of the platform, connecting the northwest and southwest in addition to the existing eastern entrance.


Pedestrian (left) and bicycle (right) improvements in the plan.

The Metro station north parking lot will host a new two-building mixed-use development with a plaza and direct access to the Metrorail platform, and retail along Washington Boulevard and Sycamore Street. The south kiss-and-ride parking lot will have a smaller residential building and a plaza. Building heights will be 5-6 stories closest to the Metro station, tapering off to 3-4 stories nearest the single-family home areas.

The existing 5 acres of Metrorail parking (about 450 spaces) will be reduced to 200 spaces. Bus facilities will continue operation. Bike lanes will replace former on-street bike routes.

My overall conclusion for this project is that if you live in the area and wish you had something worth walking to other than the parks, bike trails, and Metro station, you'll be happy. If you live in the area expecting it to continue to be a sleepy, low-density residential area for decades to come, big changes are planned. I'm looking forward to having a lot more neighbors and amenities.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

Comments

Add a comment »

EFC was also site of Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighy House. It was moved to Woodlawn Plantation to save it when they widened I-66.

by crin on Apr 29, 2010 1:10 pm • linkreport

I would love to live within walking distance of Westover & EFC Metro, but apartment options are few & far between. Unbelievable that there are zero high-rise apartment buildings within half a mile of EFC Metro. Let's hope this redevelopment plan is a step towards changing that.

by TheGreenMiles on Apr 29, 2010 1:20 pm • linkreport

@greenmiles: They just opened the Westlee Condos, and they're building the Crescent right now.

I'll be going to tonight's forum at Tuckahoe Elementary (4 blocks from EFC Metro, north on Sycamore), so find me if you're there.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 29, 2010 1:24 pm • linkreport

Where will the "new bicycle and pedestrian connections will be built across I-66" actually be? Because you can currently just go UNDER 66 at N. Sycamore Street, but nowhere else in that immediate area (unless you want up to the Washington Blvd / 29 intersection, which isn't super friendly for pedestrians.

Any chance they'll ease the run/bike path of the W&OD (I don't think it is still Custis there) where it crosses Washington Blvd? As a runner, cyclist, and frequent driver of that intersection I can't believe more people don't get hit.

To me connecting the 29 development to EFC is rather critical (and they have to do that given the redevelopment spots you are mentioning. 19th Rd ideally wouldn't be mixed use, and make for an easier walk from 29 to EFC.

Full disclosure: I live in Jefferson Village about a mile away, and pick my wife up at EFC all the time (drop her off at WFC on my way to work). I also used to live on the other side of Westover from EFC. Amazing little community, wish I could afford to live there.

by ckstevenson on Apr 29, 2010 2:46 pm • linkreport

One more thing - The Kiss & Ride area there is really a bear to get into and out of. If nothing else it needs increased signage (as does WFC) to explain the flow/egress pattern. You are supposed to either pick someone up, park, or move along. People obviously linger like at IAD/DCA, and it causes traffic jams on the entrance/exit side street, and in general just pisses people off. WFC has an unwritten rule for using it's larger Kiss & Ride lot (lanes between the parking rows allow for two lines of cars, you "stand" to the right and "walk" to the left.

by ckstevenson on Apr 29, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

We looked at a townhouse near EFC several years ago, but decided against it due to the lack of TOD/mixed-use development. Since I don't drive, I needed to be close to transit-- which EFC has-- but I also wanted to be able to walk to shops, restaurants, etc. and to be where other people walk, too. With TOD/mixed-use development AND the great bike trail connectivity...WOW! EFC will be great!

by Penny Everline on Apr 29, 2010 3:28 pm • linkreport

Grr. They used the term "open space!" Give me a plaza or a park!

by Neil Flanagan on Apr 29, 2010 3:42 pm • linkreport

I'm pretty happy to live a block from the center of Westover. We have, in my opinion, just the right density and set of amenities to sustain a small suburban village, and that's without a building over 2 stories. The massing this report shows for the Metro lots is to heavy-handed to me. It's hard to have restraint when you are creating something where nothing exists now if you base it on a blueprint lifted from areas where the extra density is more easily absorbed. I can see more development towards the Falls Church side, but along Sycamore street I'd rater see a softer edge to the residential across the street.

by Lou on Apr 29, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

Will the development closest to Metro be only 5-6 stories?

by Gavin on Apr 29, 2010 6:30 pm • linkreport

When I look at the map the only place new development would be near existing single-family homes would be at Washington and Sycamore, and that would be kitty-corner across a very busy intersection. Traffic generated would slip into existing roads that already have high amounts of traffic, or onto the metro.

I don't see what the big deal is.

by TXSteveW on Apr 29, 2010 7:40 pm • linkreport

Apparently from attending the meeting last night the "big deal" is eliminating almost all park and ride at the metro station. I'll work on a write up soon.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 30, 2010 7:51 am • linkreport

@Gavin: All of the buildings I've seen under construction there right now have been five stories tall. Maybe this is the agreed on height limit for the area (this is pretty tall for the immediate vicinity).

by Dan on Apr 30, 2010 8:16 am • linkreport

I used to live in the neighborhood, but I still use the Metro every day. I think the best part about these plans is the addition of retail along Sycamore and Washington. Whatever else happens, this should stay on the drawing board.
Second, affordable housing. I currently live in Penrose, where we have had two large new apartment complexes open in the last eighteen months. I can't believe how much they're charging. From appearances, it seems that these buildings are both largely empty. (OK, one did just open two months ago....) But the point being, if South Arlington (nowhere close to a Metrorail station) has rents like this, I can only imagine what developers would want to charge for a new building next door to a Metrorail station in North Arlington. Please have strong ADU restrictions.
Finally - the kiss and ride lot is heavily used now. It also, as someone else already pointed out, strains the Sycamore / 19th St intersection, especially in the evening hours. Either eliminate it altogether or keep it largely as is. Making it smaller would be a big mistake.

by Josh S on Apr 30, 2010 8:44 am • linkreport

While I agree that the area can use some nice re-development the currently proposed development is too much. There are proposed designs to assist traffic, bikes, and pedestrians they do not address other infrastructure issues.

1. Eliminate 450 parking spaces for metro riders forces riders into the neighborhoods which would require us neighbors to get zone parking which means $$ each resident would have to pay (which probably part of their plan)

2. Sycamore street between Wilson and Lee Hwy will get an even larger increase in traffic for people trying to get to the BJs on Wilson Blvd.

3. Can McKinley and Tuckahoe schools take on that many more students from these proposed condos?

4. Washington Blvd. is only two lanes from EFC to George Mason, can it handle the increase in vehicles?

5. Getting on and off I-66 is already difficult - just how much re-engineering can be done to handle the increase in vehicles?

6. Can Lee Highway handle the increase in traffic to the intersection?

7. Can our utilities handle the increase?

8. Take a look at other neighborhoods along the metro - learn from their mistakes. If this is going to happen make it perfect.

by Pat T. on May 5, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

@Dan and @Gavin: We have heard that the recommended height is now 9 stories as a result of the early May meeting. Apparently, the increased height was ushered in without any discussion. Even proponents of the development plan should agree that such a drastic change to the proposed development should be the subject of serious consideration.

by RP on Jun 7, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Don't courthouse Falls Church. The thing that makes Falls Church interesting is the quieter, slightly (slightly) more rural feel it has, while being very close to D.C. It is a great place for families. It will be very sad if the develop-everything-into-generic-concrete-boxes crowd from the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor gets their hands on this area.

by Falls Church on Jun 9, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

Great things in Falls Church not at risk under the plan:

Community-oriented parks (too numerous to name specifically, and in any case my kid has made-up names for them so I don't know their real names anyway)

Great grid pattern streets which make it easy to avoid major highways when biking.

The Metro Station.

Excellent elementary school (Tuckahoe).

Proximity to downtown Falls Church.

Proximity to I-66 (both directions).

Very calm residential streets, with sidewalks on most of them.

Proximity to Westover and the library.

Proximity to Lee Highway corridor and Seven Corners.

All these things are great (especially the parks) but they're not going to go away.

Here's what might go away:

Metro park and ride lot (4.5 acres of asphalt).

Verizon switching center parking lot (1 acre of asphalt).

Exxon Gas station and parking.

BB&T Bank and parking.

Petro Oil storage and transfer facility.

Cars USA used car lot.

French Restaurant and parking.

Econolodge and parking.

Animal Hospital and parking.

Which of these things contribute to our "rural feel"?

by Michael Perkins on Jun 9, 2010 11:53 am • linkreport

Answer: All of the above. The problem is not replacing a particular small building with another small building. The problem is in bulldozing small-town animal hospitals, restaurants, banks, and commuter parking in order to create massive, bland, exurban development. One could argue that any metro station could be utilized more by turning it into an exurban mess of concrete that will never be maintained, but why not allow some small towns to live? Many Connecticut towns know this lesson well; 45 to 60 minutes outside of New York City, many local residents of Fairfield County work hard to preserve the character of their communities. Falls Church should think about whether they want to preserve the existence of their community like a small town in Connecticut, or join the push to have something that will end up in 20 years resembling Rosslyn's skywalk system.

by Falls Church on Jun 12, 2010 12:35 pm • linkreport

Being from a small town (Powhatan Va.) which is also an exurban area for Richmond I absolutely can't see how anyone could take the area around the EFC station and call it a "small town". It is part a major urban and it is absolutely inappropriate to not have any sort of high rise development around a metro station. I understand the concerns of people who have bought homes but they also need to recognize that the local and federal government put A LOT of money into building a metro system to move people from throughout the region without having to also accomodate the extra cars of what has now amounted to millions of people. A better example would be a small town like clifton in fairfax. Close in (relatively) but with a small town feel. Of course its also no coincidence that some of the regions wealthiest are able to afford the luxury of a "small town" in the midst of one of the largest metro regions in the world.

Without the retrocession the area that you may live in would be a part of the District proper. That coupled with the metro means you can in no way argue that the area is exurban.

And how are the buildings in Rossyln bland? At the street and pedestrian level it could be improved (and that is actively happening) but I would hesitate to call it bland. And they are all well maintained, building operators have just as much as legitmate business interest to keep their buildings looking nice as a homeowner.

Finally, I find the connecticut comparison poor as it applies to EFC. EFC is in the heart of the business and metro area. EFC currently more like a neighborhood in brooklyn or any other outer bourough rather than connecticut. Manassass is more akin to something like DC's Connecticut

by Canaan on Jun 12, 2010 6:44 pm • linkreport

I don't really understand the problem with eliminating the metro parking lots - I've never found an open space there day or night so I don't even try anymore. It's much simpler to go to Ballston to park or to ride an Art Bus to Ballston or a Metro bus to Rosslyn to catch the metro. The EFC parking lot is too small and a waste of time.
I like the looks of this project and I don't have any problem with the density - they need the density to make the residential part "arlington" affordable (which is by no means affordable by many standards). I also love a good mixed use development - take care of all your needs without getting in the car!

by DL on Jun 16, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

Forgive me for asking this -- but today was on a 4:35pm Orange Line train that -- as it whizzed by McPherson Square -- was already COMPLETELY FULL at McPherson Square, way before Farragut West or Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn.
I was one of 3 people who were able to get on at McPherson Square -- no one else could. No more could join us at F. West or F. Bottom. It was that full.

When did it empty? I kept expecting things to get better by Ballston -- nope. Still standing room and packed tightly. West Falls Church -- nope. Still standing room only. By Dunn Loring we were still standing room but could space out a bit. It was full all the way to Vienna.

The train wasn't delayed or anything, it's just that bad on the ORANGE LINE at rush hour.

... and we want to ADD MORE PEOPLE to the Orange Line at the moment?

by L. Fairfax on Jul 19, 2010 6:12 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC