Columbia Pike Background

2024 Meeting Schedule

Normally meetings alternate between
Alice West Fleet Elementary Library
and the
Public Montessori School of Arlington Library.
Meetings start at 7:00 PM.

Please check the newsletter for details.


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Columbia Pike Revitalization Planning Process - 2000
Douglas J. Woods, AICP, Columbia Pike Initiative Coordinator
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Suite 700, Arlington, Virginia 22201
(703) 228-0097 FAX (703) 228-3834 E-Mail

    In January 1998, County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman announced the creation of the Columbia Pike Initiative (CPI). This initiative, which involved Arlington County, CPRO, and the full Columbia Pike community (residents, business and property owners, civic groups, and interested citizens) was the result of a series of meetings held in the Columbia Pike community throughout the fall of 1997. The goal of the Initiative is to build a safer, cleaner, more competitive and vibrant Columbia Pike community.

    The County Board and County Manager formed a CPI working group comprised of CPRO, community representatives and County staff. The group was charged to agree upon goals, objectives and action plans to address both short-term and longer-range community issues and to undertake immediate action on already-identified short-term goals. The CPI was established by the County Board to address community issues extending from the Pentagon to the Fairfax County line. County staff, CPRO and the Columbia Pike community have been working together since January 1998 to identify appropriate responses to short-term issues while generating and discussing alternative strategies to respond to more complicated long-term issues. These activities are summarized in a CPI Action Plan and include aggressive code and law enforcement, litter control and other maintenance efforts, graffiti removal, improved lighting, implementation of approved capital improvements and discussions with business and property owners on improving their properties. Further analysis and community input will be required to fully address and make decisions on more complex issues such as zoning changes or other incentives to stimulate new investment in the area, major transit initiatives, creation of new public open space, etc. The information compiled and synthesized during the above community process can be found in the Columbia Pike Initiative: Working Group Report, which was presented to the County Board and discussed in two work sessions. It includes recommendations for creating a cleaner, safer, more competitive and more vibrant Columbia Pike as well as an action plan.

    In an effort to further identify and clarify community priorities and create a community vision for the future of Columbia Pike, CPRO sponsored a community participation process that ran concurrently with the Columbia Pike Initiative process and ended in mid-September 1998. This process resulted in a report, Columbia Pike: A Vision for the Future, which identifies current problems and strengths and the community's vision for its future. This report is part of the Columbia Pike Initiative: Working Group Report.

    The next step in this planning process will be to further involve the community in refining the ideas generated during the previous public meetings and to generate additional ideas. These ideas will be focused on economic development and commercial revitalization; land use and zoning; urban design; transportation/transit/traffic/parking and public infrastructure; and open space and recreational needs. The Columbia Pike Plan will be a cooperative effort between Arlington County staff, CPRO, and the residents, property owners, businesses, Civic Associations, Condo and other associations, churches and all other interested groups in the study area. County staff will coordinate the development of the plan with all of the above groups. CPRO will facilitate the process ensuring that all of the above groups are included at every phase of the process. The overall Columbia Pike Initiative process will extend beyond this plan process and will include the implementation of recommendations contained within the plan.

The following is a list of meetings, a short description of the meetings, and the meeting time and place.

  1. Meeting with Civic Association Presidents - Saturday, March 11, 2000 at 10am.
  2. Meeting with Business Owners, Wednesday, March 22, 2000 at 8am.
  3. Workshop Meetings - 1 meeting per geographic area, 1 meeting as a group)
    The workshops meetings will be geographically based to optimize citizen participation. The workshop meetings will include the following:
  1. Scope of Study, Process, and Purpose of Meeting
  2. Previous Planning Efforts
    • Existing General Land Use Plan and Zoning
    • Columbia Pike 2000
  3. Recent Planning Efforts
    • Study on Area Revitalization and Preservation Strategies (SARPS)
    • Columbia Pike Initiative: Working Group Report which includes the community report Columbia Pike: A Vision for the Future
    • Columbia Pike - Preliminary Development Density Scenarios
  4. Presentation and Discussion of Urban Design Analysis/ Existing Conditions Analysis
  5. Presentation and Discussion of Preliminary Concept Plan (developed from previous planning efforts)
    • Discussion of Elements of the Plan to get community ideas on Columbia Pike Revitalization.
    • Areas of Discussion:
  • Economic Development and Commercial Revitalization
  • Land Use and Zoning, Urban Design, and Historic Resources
  • Transportation, Transit, Traffic, Parking, and Public Infrastructure
  • Open Space and Recreational Needs
           Through this process we will be able to discern area concerns regarding public facilities, housing opportunities, jobs, and job training.

           (A packet of information containing relevant excerpts of previous planning efforts will be available at the meetings).

            County staff and the CPRO Executive Director will be available for additional discussions with and presentations to all Civic, Condo, and other associations, church groups and other organizations interested. Participants are encouraged to form discussion groups outside of the planned meetings and to encourage maximum participation within their neighborhoods and organizations.

A Synopsis of Previous and Recent Planning Efforts

    In 1985, the Columbia Pike Task Force was established as a subcommittee of the Planning Commission. The Task Force drafted the Columbia Pike Revitalization Plan that included recommendations on land use and zoning, urban design, parks and playgrounds, transportation and community facilities.

    In 1986, the Columbia Pike Task Force incorporated as the non-profit Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO). The County Board has contributed matching funds annually to CPRO's budget, including funding for a full-time executive director.

    Also in 1986, the County Board adopted land use and zoning recommendations for Columbia Pike with the goal of establishing a framework for community revitalization and preservation. These recommendations included the establishment of the Special Revitalization District. The Board further directed staff to develop a comprehensive revitalization plan that built upon the adopted land use policy resulting in Columbia Pike 2000: A Revitalization Plan.

    The Plan, which includes comprehensive analysis and recommendations on the retail market, urban design, open space and circulation system, transition areas and other commercial revitalization elements, is still very much current and relevant. To date, however, many of the recommendations in the plan have not been achieved. This is due, in part, to a lack of private investment. While the realization of some of the recommendations in the Plan have not been a high priority in terms of County departmental work programs, the County and State have appropriated millions of dollars for public infrastructure improvements including streetscape and utility undergrounding within the Revitalization District, transportation improvements such as the Washington Boulevard interchange replacement and installation of turning lanes at the Glebe Road Intersection. Although problems with acquisition of necessary public rights-of-way have been a major obstacle to completing some of the funded improvements, a substantial financial commitment has been made. Private investment, in terms of redevelopment of underutilized sites, or improvements to existing private properties and buildings has been minimal.

    Neighborhood Initiative: The Neighborhood Initiative (NI) is an Arlington County effort in its second year of operation. It seeks to:

  • increase residents awareness, knowledge and use of County services for neighborhood problem resolution,
  • increase participation of hard to reach residents and their capacity to resolve neighborhood issues, and
  • improve the effectiveness of County government in resolving complex neighborhood problems through collaborative efforts.
    NI was refocused to the Neighborhood Strategy Areas of Buckingham, Nauck, and Columbia Heights West, from the broader service areas of D, F and G. These areas are the most at-risk neighborhoods within the NI service areas. The geographic refocus enables resources to be maximized for NSA plan implementation, Outreach Center activities and Police department efforts. The recently approved neighborhood improvement plans for Nauck, Columbia Heights West and Buckingham provide focus and strategies for comprehensive improvements. These areas have lacked committed and concentrated interdepartmental resources to make significant progress on implementation efforts.

    In addition to the restructured NI, an in-house Coordinating Council oversees the operation of the consolidated program - the NI, NSA, and Community Outreach. This structure governs NI activities, helps to secure resources for NSA plan implementation and serves as a forum and advising council for expanding Outreach Center activities. It also seeks a better integration between these programs with the Police Department. The Coordinating Council would also address policy issues, monitor activities and identify opportunities to coordinate and collaborate among these programs, including identifying the resources they need to operate and proceed with implementation. The Council would work with department heads to commit staff and other resources to respond to these needs.

    This shift in program direction is comprehensive and would begin the process of facilitating a more holistic approach to securing healthier neighborhoods where obvious needs exist. In addition, emphasis would be focused on service delivery improvement and building resident capacity among the smaller hard-to-reach segments of the wider neighborhood service areas.

      SARPS: Arlington County retained a multidisciplinary team consisting of Hunter Interests Inc., Urban Design Associates, and the National Council on Economic Development to develop a Study of Area Revitalization and Preservation Strategies (SARPS). The purpose of this project was to gather information, perform analyses, and present conclusions to achieve the following goals: To understand the current market forces that affect patterns of investment in older residential and neighborhood-commercial areas; to identify how those forces have led to declining physical conditions and lack of sufficient investment in certain areas in Arlington; to forecast the future of these areas, assuming the absence of new County initiatives to affect investment patterns; and to identify nationwide and international "best practices" that could attract those new market forces which have not currently identified some areas of Arlington as preferred investment locations.

    Transit Service Evaluation Plan: Arlington County staff has initiated a Countywide, multi-year transit service evaluation planning effort, focusing on more economical and better bus service. Some possible shorter-term, transit-related initiatives for Columbia Pike include the creation of additional bus lines, increased frequency of buses, better coordination for the facilitation of transfers to other routes, creation of a Metrorail access bus circulation system, limited overnight service, more and improved bus shelters, creation of a transit store, and improved rider amenities and transfer information at all transfer points. Other ideas are free ridership zones (which would require sponsorship from businesses), and painting or otherwise marking buses to make them more attractive and visible.

    In the longer-term, potential future transit options may include an electric bus trolley system that would serve Columbia Pike or a loop system that might connect with other areas of the County, a light rail system and even an expansion of the Metrorail system that would run from the Pentagon along Columbia Pike to Bailey's Crossroads and beyond. These options, all of which will require intensive study regarding their costs and feasibility and a thorough community input process, would have enormous potential for both improving the marketability of Columbia Pike as a vital business corridor and changing the landscape of the Pike.

Historical Context:

    Columbia Pike dates back to the early 1800s and has been economically important throughout its history. Farmers originally used the road to bring tobacco and cattle into Washington. Rail service became more important around the turn of the 18th century and before World War I, streetcar service came to Columbia Pike by a branch line that ran from Rosslyn through Fort Myer to Nauck. A streetcar stop was located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive and this became the focus of commercial development. By the mid-1920s, several cafés, a food store, drugstores, and a stationary shop were located in a strip between Walter Reed Drive and Glebe Road. The paving of Columbia Pike began in 1927. The Columbia Pike Bus Line, the first bus service on the Pike that provided service from Barcroft to downtown Washington, began on June 21, 1921. Three years later, this line extended its service to Alexandria and the line became the Alexandria, Barcroft and Washington (AB&W) Company. This was one of the four private companies bought in the 1970s to become Metrobus.

    In the 1920s and 1930s, commercial buildings on Columbia Pike generally were constructed close to the street with entries and display windows for retail shops on the ground floor, reflecting the importance of pedestrian access and the communities reliance on mass transit that operated on the Pike. The upper stories often contained office space or apartments. The buildings were generally narrow and built close together forming the continuous "street wall" characteristic of an urban environment; parking lots were not provided because few people owned cars.

    The Arlington Village and Fillmore Gardens Shopping Centers are examples of early neighborhood shopping centers built in conjunction with garden apartment communities built along the Pike. Early automobile-oriented retailing uses included gas stations, additional shopping centers like Westmont, service centers and car dealerships, and other businesses designed to accommodate auto usage, such as shopping centers and drive-in restaurants. These uses were frequently built within existing commercial areas, breaking up the continuous "street wall" in order to provide easy vehicle access and parking.

    After World War II, additional neighborhood shopping centers, primarily associated with residential development, were built to serve the area's rapidly expanding population. By 1958, there were 178 businesses located along Columbia Pike, accounting for approximately ten percent of the total retail sales in Arlington. About this time, Columbia Pike was widened to four lanes, virtually eliminating all on-street parking. By the early 1960s, traffic volumes along the Pike had reached more than 20,000 vehicles per day, almost the current level about 40 years later. Because of concerns about delay and diversion to neighborhood streets, Arlington County asked (and VDOT was willing) to have left turns prohibited at Glebe Road and Columbia Pike.

    In the 1960s, the Pike Plaza Shopping Center (now part of Adams Square) and a freestanding Safeway store at South Dinwiddie Street (now Arlington Mill Community Center) were developed. These provided strong neighborhood shopping areas at both ends of Columbia Pike. The majority of existing office space was built between 1961 and 1972. New commercial construction from the 1970s to the present has consisted of freestanding fast food restaurants, convenience stores and drive-through banking facilities. Most improvements to commercial properties have been largely cosmetic renovation, rather than substantive re-investment.

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