Plan Langston Boulevard: Key Planning Elements Part 2

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Key Planning Elements Series: Part 2

Welcome back! This week, we are continuing to catch everyone up on what you may have missed earlier in this planning study with our next newsletter on one of the study’s key planning elements. This week, our newsletter is talking about ECONOMIC VITALITY.  

In this newsletter, we outline the planning element goal and provide a brief summary of what has been shared previously. If you would like to take a deeper dive into all the public feedback received or read the full reports, go to the Documents webpage or click the links throughout this newsletter.  

The Key Planning Elements are: 

  • Land Use
  • Economic Vitality 
  • Housing 
  • Building Form 
  • Transportation, Connectivity, and Urban Design 
  • Public Schools, Facilities, and Spaces 
  • Historic and Cultural Resources 
  • Sustainability and Resilience 

Economic Vitality

Goal: Strengthen the diverse commercial base

Economic vitality means healthy businesses, vibrant retail, more services, jobs, and a larger tax base to benefit the County budget and all taxpayers.

There has been a dramatic shift in the way people shop as the face of retail changes from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping. National and local trends point to the need for integrated experiences where food, culture, shopping, education, and wellness are blended and housed in flexible spaces that can adapt to a variety of commercial uses over time. With significant regional competition, future businesses along the corridor must offer a unique experience and distinguished goods and services. Integrating businesses into walkable mixed-used areas is key to creating destinations that align with many customers’ desired experiences.

A Plan for Langston Boulevard Strengthens Local Economy

Today, sit-down restaurant, clothing and apparel, fitness, health care, and entertainment uses are less prevalent along Langston Boulevard and a significant share of current retail is small spaces with little room to add new concepts, such as maker spaces for brewing, 3D printing, fashion, food preparation, and tech, that can support and enhance the desired green main street. There is also insufficient residential density to support new businesses.

Changing the zoning and land use along Langston Boulevard to allow mixed-use development, increased housing density, and additional types of commercial uses will support new businesses. For small businesses, removing zoning barriers to enter the corridor and achieving a variety of spaces (both in size and location) to help deliver options for rent and scale is vital.

Diverse new development will enhance the already economically healthy corridor. Businesses will be better positioned for the future and an increase in the tax base will benefit the County budget—bringing in more resources to realize important community amenities and improvements, such as better transit service and protection against flooding.

How a Plan for Langston Boulevard will Benefit Businesses

  • Establishing mixed-use activity nodes with open spaces and community facilities to create “social hubs” of different services and activities that attract a broad spectrum of people, promote social activity, and strengthen neighborhood businesses.
  • Giving special attention to providing flexible ground floor space that can readily adapt over time to a variety of new businesses, providing new jobs and opportunities near housing. These include start-ups, incubators, and co-working spaces, small-to-midscale hospitality, childcare services, and businesses in the fitness, gym, and lifestyle market.
  • Adding new housing and residents within walking distance will strengthen local businesses. Growing work from home trends can strengthen corridor businesses as well.
  • Creating an environment through new biophilic conditions, enhanced tree canopy, and open space where residents can comfortably gather, connect, and recreate.
  • Creating ample protected space for pedestrians and cyclists along with enhanced transit service to improve access to businesses along the corridor.
  • Establishing convenient, consolidated, shared parking will support businesses while decreasing the need for vehicle use between commercial properties.

Have you weighed in on the corridor-wide objectives or neighborhood improvements and benefits that are most important to you? There's currently a live feedback form on the PLB webpage.

2016 Visioning Study Report + Economic Vitality

According to the 2016 Visioning Study Report, the Langston Boulevard corridor will maintain economic vitality by encouraging a diverse mix of services and destinations, and by using innovative economic development strategies.

The economic vitality recommendations in the report include: 

  • Defining the economic role of the corridor within the County and the region
  • Pursuing infrastructure investments, such as parking and public open space, to support mixed-use development in walkable nodes
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship and more jobs along the corridor
  • Streamlining the development approval process to address the needs of small property owners
  • Exploring the need for direct business assistance for façade improvements
  • Evaluating alternative financing and other incentives
  • Exploring the creation of a public-private partnership (i.e., Business Improvement District) to implement the vision
  • Participating in County-wide initiatives to diversify the local economy and reduce barriers to redevelopment

Existing Conditions Analysis Report + Economic Vitality

Promoting and strengthening a diverse commercial base requires understanding the existing market and exploring ways to encourage more businesses that are well suited to the area. The planning process is identifying macro-economic trends, evaluating how much and what type of development is needed, and identifying additional opportunities for diversification.

The Existing Conditions Analysis Report shared that:

  • The Langston Boulevard economy is diverse, with a wide range of neighborhood-serving business types.
  • Roughly 25% of ground floor businesses offer a dining or food and beverage experience.
  • Langston Boulevard has low vacancy and low turnover thanks to:
    • high traffic that exposes businesses to thousands of customers daily,
    • a mix of local-serving businesses and services, and
    • moderate rents.
  • Because of high occupancy and lack of available space, there is little room to add new retail concepts in the short term. There is a need to create more space (through parcel assemblage, owner cooperation, etc.), particularly for destination centers.
  • Residents along the corridor have a higher household median income, a higher share of owner-occupied housing, and a larger household size (compared to broader Arlington County).
  • National and local trends that could influence the business mix and new opportunities along the corridor include:
    • advances in computers, automation, and artificial intelligence;
    • an increase in freelance workers;
    • the need for flexible spaces that can adapt to a variety of commercial needs;
    • a decline in retail jobs; and
    • a need for integrating shopping with other consumer experiences where food, culture, education and wellness are blended.
  • Establishing creditworthiness for new businesses and proving new business models in a changing marketplace can create risk for building owners.
  • Redevelopment along the corridor may create difficult conditions for existing smaller businesses.

Neighborhood Inspiration Report + Economic Vitality

The community identified the following economic vitality-related priority actions in the Neighborhood Inspiration Report: (also see the NIR Appendix)

Area 1: Arlington East Falls Church

  • Support local businesses through incentives to keep the area affordable
  • Increase the number of places to eat
  • Encourage new forms of commercial uses, such as WeWork

Area 2: John M. Langston, Yorktown, Tara Leeway Heights, Leeway Overlee

  • Façade improvements and general beautification along the corridor
  • Easier access to businesses and more parking
  • Fewer chain stores
  • More quality businesses
  • Identifying a program to assist small businesses
  • Maintaining affordability so local businesses stay

Area 3: Waverly Hills, Donaldson Run, Old Dominion, Glebewood, Waycroft Woodlawn

  • Provide support to existing local businesses
  • Invest in infrastructure and schools
  • Allow ground floors to be versatile and adaptable to a variety of uses
  • Adopt flexible parking requirements and strategies that encourage shared parking solutions
  • Promote outdoor dining options
  • Promote uses that support community and healthy living

Area 4: Cherrydale + Maywood

  • Reconsider height and density restrictions along Langston Boulevard to allow mid-rise mixed-use development

Area 5: North Highlands + Lyon Village

  • Allow for commercial flexibility so that current uses may be adapted to future uses
  • Change zoning to accommodate new businesses (e.g., light manufacturing that is consumer facing, doggie day cares, kids facilities) and expand areas where medical offices are allowed
  • Explore tools available for small business owners

Land Use Scenario Analysis + Economic Vitality

Through several public feedback engagements on the Land Use Scenario Analysis, the community shared concerns about the potential for loss of small businesses and expressed support for the following:

  • More businesses and mixed-use:
    • at the EFC Metro station site
    • along the four corners of Langston Boulevard and N. Harrison Street
    • in the Garden City shops and N. George Mason Drive
    • along both sides of Langston Boulevard between N. Glebe Road and N. Woodstock Street/Lorcom Lane
    • in the northwest and southwest corners of Spout Run Parkway and Langston Boulevard
    • at the Airforce Association site in North Highlands east
  • Implementation of the Cherrydale Revitalization Plan and some support for additional mixed-use development in areas outside Cherrydale Revitalization District
  • A grocery store in EFC
  • Flexible ground floor spaces to encourage food production/maker space uses
  • Job creation through appropriate land uses
  • Urban agriculture on rooftops and within buildings (e.g., community gardens, hydroponics, floriculture)
  • Improving aesthetics and function of the strip commercial highway frontage
  • More public parking off-street, and on-street, to support existing and new businesses
  • Increasing residential density and expanding commercial zoning areas to support new local businesses in some locations