Monday, September 14, 2009

Arlington and Alexandria Hope to Lure Developers for Restored Waterfront Property

Have you heard about Four Mile Run, the next hottest waterfront development area in the DC suburbs? Arlington and Alexandria urban planners are hoping to transform the Four Mile Run into a draw for developers seeking to capitalize on a waterfront environment. The restoration project set out a series of wish lists for environmental improvements and guidelines for greener, more modern buildings. Arlington and Alexandria continue to push forward on the three year project, optimistically riding the storm of the current economic downturn.

For those unfamiliar with the Four Mile Run Project, here’s the rundown: The lower 2.3 mile portion of Four Mile Run runs from Shirlington to the mouth of the Potomac and acts as a natural boundary between the cities of Alexandria and Arlington. In the 1970s and 80s, the Army Corps of Engineers channelized this portion of Four Mile Run to control a major flooding problem. The solution worked, but the resulting channel became an eyesore that eliminated the vegetation and aquatic wildlife that used to call that part of the stream home.

In March of 2006, the cities of Alexandria and Arlington drafted a plan to revive the once thriving environment along the channel bed without sacrificing flood control. Enter the Four Mile Run Restoration Plan and the Four Mile Run Design Guidelines—an overview of improvements planned along the stream and a guide for developers hoping to take advantage of what the cities of Alexandria and Arlington hope will become a bustling gateway between the municipalities over the next 10 to 15 years. Another plus for developers: the guidelines do not set new ordinances or even make hard and fast development rules for that matter.

“We wanted future developers to focus their orientation toward the stream instead of turning their backs on it as developers had done in the past,” explains Arlington County Urban Planner, Leon Vignes, adding that in the years to come, the newly revitalized stream will come “to be seen as a feature for building in the area.”

According to Arlington Environmental Planner Aileen Winquist, developers should look forward to the completion of the Tidal Restoration Demonstration Project within the next two years. This project will restore the stream banks and improve the appearance of the channel bounded by Route 1 and extending to Commonwealth Avenue/South Eads Street. Additionally, a design competition for a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge extending from South Eads Street to Commonwealth Avenue to connect the cities of Alexandria and Arlington is also in the works.

“Our mantra in Arlington has been cafes and retail on the first floor. We’d love to see that and development with an eye to the stream. But we don’t make land use recommendations,” says Vignes. “We really just want to leave the possibilities open and see all types of development.”

On the Alexandria side, you’ve got the Potomac Yard project. New apartments and condominiums will join the relocated Signature Theatre in Shirlington. And rumor has it that the Target on the Alexandria side might also be up for redevelopment.

As long as developers strive for greener building practices, do what they can to incorporate public spaces and the newly improved stream in their designs, and take into account storm water management, they'll be welcomed by city planners in Alexandria and Arlington. (Not that they could actually penalize developers for not following the plans).

Public hearings and planning meetings to discuss additions and finalize the Four Mile Run Design Guidelines are scheduled for the 14th and 26th of this month.


IMGoph on Sep 14, 2009, 6:19:00 PM said...

how old is that target? can't be more than a few years...seems awful soon to be redeveloped...

Jay on Sep 15, 2009, 7:42:00 AM said...

What? No mention of Arlandria? :-)

Good to see this project. Alexandria and Arlington are natural partners.

Anonymous said...

big box stores are relatively cheap to build and can provide a quick sales tax boost for the municipality. redeveloping that site and integrating it into the great Potomac yard plans will be great. currently, it is a terrible strip mall that is a nightmare on weekends.
also. hopefully some development will move up 4 Mile Run, possibly on the Alexandria side where there is currently just a car dealership on a street that deadends.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one to notice that because of the sewage plant, 4MR usually smells like s__t?

Anonymous said...

4MR sucks to high heaven. I can't imagine that it could possibly be developed in an alluring way. All the hallmarks of epic FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Development invariably harms the natural environment. Regardless of whether the project is "green", environmentally friendly, or whatever, new development in Arlington and Alexandria almost always increases both building densities and local populations. These increases inevitably create increases in automobile traffic, air pollution, water pollution, traffic congestion and energy usage.

It's inescapable. New development around Four Mile Run will do far more to degrade the environment than to improve it, regardless of the rhetoric that economic interests and politicians are spouting in their attempts to hide the consequences of their reckless decisions and actions.

IMGoph on Sep 16, 2009, 9:44:00 PM said...

tradeoffs, anon, tradeoffs. you're not painting a true picture, or with broad enough strokes.

first, the area along four mile run is already degraded. the neighboring jurisdictions are looking to fix (as well as can be done) the damage that was done.

second, what makes more sense, development-wise, for the environment? adding density inside the beltway, or building new roads, homes, stores, etc., out in the greenfield areas of prince william, fauquier, and loudon counties? you know the right answer to this, and that's why i said you weren't giving the full picture. any new construction in arlington and alexandria is FAR AND AWAY preferable to ANY DEVELOPMENT WHATSOEVER in the hinterlands.

4MR said...

These are great ideas, on paper. Among the issues - 1. almost the entire north side of the stream b/w Eads and Mt. Vernon is taken up by a water treatment facility (that frankly should have been moved when land was available)2. the power lines running down the stream are a complete eyesore and will cost tens of millions to put underground. The big box stores at Potomac Yard were actually put there temporarily (it was in the hunt for Redskins stadium) and will be redeveloped, but not in the next 5 or so years for sure. This area seems to be the dumping ground for the Arlington Board (water treatment expansion, metro bus station and a new ART bus depot), so I wont hold my breath.

mpcondo on Sep 18, 2009, 8:59:00 AM said...

I have in mind something akin to the riverwalk in san antonio, but with virginia green. Parking in garages away from the actual walking/water area will keep traffic from actually impacting the river and ensure the water is accessable to wildlife with fountains and gardens, even hanging gardens under the old concrete crossings on the east side of route 1. the water treatment plant will most likely be moved away as that land becomes even more vaulable, to sell by the city. parks and walks on the west side and cafes/stores/museum? on the east side.

beenthere on Sep 25, 2009, 8:31:00 AM said...

The treatment plant referred to in previous comments is the Water Pollution Control Plant - it environmentally treats our sewage. Water/sewage runs downhill. It would be next to impossible to move the plant and would cost 100's of millions of $$.

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