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ArlingtonPlan seeks increasing urbanization along Langston Blvd. corridor

Plan seeks increasing urbanization along Langston Blvd. corridor

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Once the Arlington County government wraps up imposing its will on residents increasingly concerned about the “Missing Middle” zoning free-for-all later this year, it is likely to turn its attention to facilitating increased urbanization of the Langston Boulevard corridor.

County officials are out with a 135-page concept design for the five-mile stretch of east-west roadway that runs from Rosslyn out to the Falls Church border, and it is in line with expectations.

The document envisions a general increase in urbanization, with more businesses coupled with amped-up housing and transportation options.

“By 2050, Langston Boulevard will become a ‘Green Main Street’ of vibrant neighborhoods, linking iconic local businesses, mixed-use activity nodes, sufficient and mixed housing supply and signature public spaces,” planners predicted in the document.

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Whether or not such a proposal – coming from both staff and, ultimately, County Board members who do not live in the corridor – will gain favor with those who actually live there remains to be seen. Critics already are contending that the proposal goes too far, too fast, and ignores the interests of many residents along the route.

And indeed, the report acknowledges that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the appropriate route to successful implementation.

“The Langston Boulevard neighborhoods are complex,” the report says. “Each area has its own unique culture, built form and urban functionality. Residents, workers and visitors see and understand the neighborhoods along the corridor differently.”

How much resonance any complaints from those who currently own property in the corridor will have as the process plays out in coming months is an open question. The County Board as currently comprised seems firm in its efforts to shoehorn more development – residential and commercial – into the county’s 26 square miles, even as there are growing alarms raised about the impact on transportation, schools and the management of stormwater runoff.

(For their part, county staff in the Langston Boulevard report contend that school enrollment won’t be significantly increased by the plan and that “increased traffic from new growth is largely offset by the proposed mobility enhancement.”)

In a survey conducted earlier this year, respondents in all parts of the corridor said that pedestrian improvements were the most important upgrade that needed to be made, followed by tree preservation. Far down the list were the types of things planners salivate over, such as public art and imposition of “green” building requirements.

Adding affordable-housing options to the corridor ranked in the middle of priorities among current residents of the neighborhoods but was ranked much higher by those living outside the corridor, an indication of the fissures between advocacy groups and neighborhood residents. And while County Board members of years gone by used to be fearful of the political power of (and therefor responsive to) single-family neighborhoods such as those in large swaths of Langston Boulevard, the current body these days seems to be under sway of advocacy groups pressing for the increasing urbanization, particularly in single-family neighborhoods and areas that abut them.

The recently unveiled concept plan builds on a “vision study” for the corridor completed in 2016. The Plan Langston Boulevard effort began in 2019 under the roadway’s former name, Lee Highway.

Arlington officials are teeing up a number of online community meetings to discuss the plan, starting on Sept. 14 and running through October.

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