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.