- Plan will guide development over decades
- Vision for 21st century-civic square for Arlington
- Four new acres of open space
The County Board today adopted the visionary Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, a long-range plan that will guide the development of a new civic center and great public destination for Arlington over the next several decades. The new plan sets forth a vision, concept, design guidelines and implementation guidance to transform Courthouse into “Courthouse Square,” a place for visitors to gather for conversation, recreation, relaxation and to celebrate important events.
“This plan pulls together some of our most successful policies to create a 21st century civic heart for Arlington,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “It calls for undergrounding Courthouse Square parking to create vibrant open space, improving transit connectivity by adding a new Metro entrance on the square, and improving sustainability through district energy and stormwater management. The new Courthouse Square will welcome all Arlingtonians to a new, transparent County administration building, but will also preserve a couple of key historic facades and explore additional cultural amenities in the future.”
Ten big ideas
The plan has ten top priorities or “big ideas.” Specific recommendations underpin the big ideas and describe what is necessary to realize the vision. Combined, they will guide future public investment and private contributions in the study area.
- 21st Century Civic Square – the top priority replaces an existing surface parking lot to create the new Courthouse Square, a network of open spaces that can support a wide variety of existing and future programs and events. A new parking garage, below the square, will accommodate parking needs.
- Central Metro access – a new, centrally-located Metro access point will provide a welcoming entrance and serve as a highly visible landmark for visitors.
- Shared streets – diverse, walkable streetscapes will surround the square and help connect open spaces to the buildings and pedestrian activities in the immediate area. 15th Street North and 14th Street North are envisioned as curbless, shared streets that are uniquely designed to extend the usefulness of the square, accommodate vehicles and transit, while providing priority to pedestrians and promoting safety.
- Courthouse Square promenade – a key pedestrian connection, between Wilson Boulevard and 14th Street North, will be a vibrant promenade that links the square to activities, Metro, open spaces, County facilities, local businesses and surrounding neighborhoods.
- Symbolic civic building on South Square – a focal-point building will introduce County, civic, cultural and/or market uses in this prominent location. The future facility should be devoted to highly-accessible community functions or integrated with other compatible civic and cultural activities.
- Verizon Plaza redevelopment – the existing Verizon Plaza has seen little use in the last several years due to its design, shadows and location. The plan realizes the site as a new development opportunity that will contribute to and further the plan’s goals.
- County administration building – a key charge for the study was to examine the future location and building massing for a County administration building. The prominent location, adjacent to the promenade and 14th Street North, is on axis with the Judicial Center and provides entrances located on the square.
- Enhanced pedestrian connection at North Veitch Street and 14th Street North – an improved connection from the south will ease and enrich the pedestrian experience in an area with topographical and visual barriers, and pedestrian conflicts with parking and loading access points.
- Cultural and civic facilities – cultural and civic facilities have the ability to enliven and enrich the Courthouse Square experience and create a multi-purpose regional destination. A number of locations could accommodate cultural uses ranging from a museum to a performing arts venue. Through the civic engagement process, the community shared a number of potential uses that are included in the document.
- Sustainability – creative and responsible sustainability solutions are integrated with recommendations throughout the plan.
The County Board reflected the recently adopted Affordable Housing Master Plan in its adopting of the Sector Plan update. The Board added language that underscores the County’s commitment to affordable housing in this “mixed-use, mixed income, premier location in a way that contributes to the vitality and vibrancy of the neighborhood.” The Plan’s implementation matrix identifies potential funding sources and mechanisms. The plan anticipates that redevelopment of the area, including public improvements, could be paid for through a combination of new development density transfers, future capital improvement plans, revenue bonds and leases. Further analysis and studies with community participation will determine specific design concepts, costs and funding.
View the Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum.
The Board voted 5-0 to adopt the Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum. To read the staff report for this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #50 on the Agenda for the Monday, Sept. 21 County Board Meeting.
Effort began in 2013
The County Board initiated the community planning process, Envision Courthouse Square, in 2013. The goal of the process was to update the vision outlined in the 1993 Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, which identified a state-of-the-art government center and signature public space as critical to the area’s development. The shared community vision for balances the viewpoints, priorities and ambitions of a wide spectrum of participants.
To learn more, visit the County website.