Arlington County: Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.
The county is shooting for a “bold” vision for Columbia Pike that will increase the height and density of buildings while saving 4,500 units of affordable housing. The county board voted Saturday to advertise the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan and conduct public hearings on it in July.
Over a 30-year period, the Pike would see 4,500 new residential units in its “nodes” and 6,000 new residential units elsewhere, adding up to 26,000 total residences along that stretch of south Arlington. The “nodes” are the major intersections where development will be heaviest.
This latest plan considers changes to the residential neighborhoods between nodes, and the board only voted to advertise these changes, not to accept them.
As well, the county hopes to save 4,500 units of affordable housing along the Pike. The units may be “committed” affordable, meaning the property is guaranteed to remain affordable for an agreed to number of years, or “market rate” affordable meaning the units are older or in worse condition or in a bad location so that they rent more cheaply than similar apartments.
In all of this, one thing is certain: buildings along the Pike will get taller if the plan is implemented. The plan itself calls for more buildings at the six-, eight- and 10-storey height. However, more height might also be available through what’s called transfers of development rights, or TDRs.
Using current rules and working with housing partners, planner David Cristeal said the county reaches about 3,150 affordable units. The gap, the 1,500 units more that they want to save, will be filled using various incentives, especially TDRs.
Under a TDR, a company can build affordable housing on one site and add the lost development rights--or recoup the lost income--by building more floors on a building in another location than would normally be allowed.
In the parlance of development, the “sending site” gets the affordable housing, while the “receiving site” gets the bonus height. The rule of thumb is that the receiving site gets at least three times the space of the affordable units on the sending site. In this case, the county needs 4,500 receiving units to allow for the 1,500 affordable units they are trying to save.
Board member Jay Fisette put forward a motion that was accepted saying the nodes on the Pike should receive the “bulk” of the 4,500 units.
This had John Snyder concerned. Snyder is the Treasurer of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, an active member in forming the plan.