Plan Langston Boulevard: Key Planning Elements Part 8

PLB Logo High Res

Key Planning Elements Series: Part 8

Welcome to Part 8 of this special series on Plan Langston Boulevard’s key planning elements. Thank you for reading! We hope you have found these newsletters helpful and informative.

This week, we’re talking about SUSTAINABILITY and RESILIENCE. 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: 

Sustainability and Resilience

GoalTransform Langston Boulevard into a “Green” corridor with street trees, increased landscaping and pervious surfaces, and environmentally sustainable and energy efficient buildings.

By 2050, Langston Boulevard will become a “Green Main Street” that is climate facing—focusing on environmentally sustainable, adaptive, and resilient forward-looking policies—with buildings and public spaces designed for the mitigation and management of long-term climate impacts.

Growth, demand, and climate change impose new and growing challenges to the desirability, function, and endurance of communities. There is an opportunity now to plan for future growth that is climate-facing and achieves diverse interconnected priorities, including green infrastructure, public space, nature-based solutions to support development, housing, placemaking, public transit, and an inclusive community. To increase environmental sustainability and resilience along the corridor and achieve the County’s carbon neutrality goal, we must manage stormwater effectively, promote mass transit and walkability, and reduce energy demand.

Flooding impacts have been felt Countywide and in many places along the corridor because of multiple high-intensity storms, large amounts of impervious surfaces generating stormwater runoff, and aging infrastructure. In recent weeks, the County Manager proposed a $3.9 billion, 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) covering FY 2023–FY 2032. This proposed CIP addresses many long-term needs in the community. Supported by fiscal resilience, a thoughtful approach was taken to address the challenges we face in a constantly changing world. This CIP includes important investments in climate resilience, stormwater management, and flood response. The proposed CIP investment for stormwater is $331 million, an increase of $298 million compared to FY 2019–2028 CIP. This CIP provides key investments to improve our stormwater management system following several intense storms and mitigating future flood risks. Two-thirds of the funding is for stormwater capacity increase as a mix of overland relief—a pathway for any excess water runoff that overwhelms the existing, below-grade infrastructure—and infrastructure capacity projects. The remaining one-third of funding will be for maintenance capital and water quality projects. Stormwater capacity will be increased to address flooding issues. Four primary watersheds across the County will have priority: Spout Run, Lubber Run, Crossman, and Torreyson. The planning study area drains through 13 different tributary watersheds, including these four. County Board work sessions with County Manager and staff, along with a public hearing with the Board will take place in June. The final CIP is expected to be adopted by the Board in July.

Although the County is making substantial investments in its stormwater systems through the CIP, collaboration between private landowners and the County through special exception development tools is critical to address stormwater challenges along the corridor in a more timely and effective manner and reach a safe outcome for the community. By-right development in these areas will not provide flood mitigation and protection or green infrastructure to reduce flooding and promote water quality. It will exacerbate flooding conditions and the community will forfeit the opportunity to correct the problems we have today. The plan for the corridor must promote opportunities for flood mitigation, flood protection in flood-prone areas, and green infrastructure to reduce flooding and promote water quality. As rainfall intensity and flooding events increase, redevelopment in areas at higher elevations that reduces impervious surfaces and manages stormwater is critical. In these areas, redevelopment of private land that provides a series of underground vaults and overland relief will help to hold and slow water, allowing it to pass safely without harming people and structures downstream. In other areas, storm sewers are under existing buildings and redevelopment could provide an opportunity to relocate and increase the size of the pipes to ensure adequate storm sewer capacity and access for ongoing maintenance.

According to the County’s Community Energy Plan (CEP), 39 percent of Arlington’s energy use is associated with transportation and 61 percent with buildings and the types of energy the power utility uses to operate the grid. Arlington’s policy for transportation is to increase the use of alternative and public transportation. Optimizing bus service to increase transit ridership, creating pedestrian- and bike-friendly connections along and to/from Langston Boulevard, and fitting in electric vehicle charging stations and electric buses will play a key role in advancing County energy-use goals.

To reach the County’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal, building energy demand must be reduced. The plan for the corridor must promote climate-facing building design, energy efficiency, and other LEED standards in design and construction. Energy and emissions reduction can be achieved through upgrades to existing buildings (e.g., insulation, solar panels, green roofs), reducing carbon emissions from the electric grid (i.e., cleaner energy), and retrofitting the public realm (e.g., trees, solar arrays, LED lighting, electric mobility). The expected reduction in impervious surface with future development could increase tree canopy in the core areas along the corridor. Green elements help to manage urban heat island effect, moderating ambient surface temperatures, improving air quality, and providing a healthier environment overall.

The plan for Langston Boulevard will:

  • Incentivize active mobility and transit use to reduce emissions
  • Identify flood vulnerable areas that need stormwater mitigation strategies, including where additional runoff retention and detention and overland relief are needed to reduce flood risk from stormwater flows
  • Consider strategic guidelines for new construction in flood-vulnerable areas to reduce impervious surfaces and capture run-off on-site
  • Ensure long-term reduction of flood impacts on public safety, property, and streets, trails, or other public infrastructure
  • Ensure long-term protection of natural surface and groundwater assets
  • Establish guidelines for increased planting areas and tree canopy coverage in redevelopment areas
  • Establish streetscape design guidelines with biophilic elements
  • Reduce urban heat island effects, resulting in healthier public environments and reduced public costs of operations and maintenance
  • Establish measures for new construction and encourage increased development densities to help meet the Community Energy Plan goal of lowering per capita energy use and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions

2016 Visioning Study Report + Sustainability and Resilience

According to the 2016 Visioning Study Reportthe plan for Langston Boulevard will “green” the corridor by incorporating street trees and improved landscaping in public spaces and sustainable design techniques in new construction.

The sustainability recommendations in the report include: 

  • Continuing to conduct educational forums on urban/sustainable design techniques
  • Specifying standards for sustainable design in new construction (e.g., high-efficiency and/or high-productivity energy and water solutions, biophilic components, etc.).

Existing Conditions Analysis Report + Sustainability and Resilience

The plan for the corridor will assess strategies for potential energy, stormwater, and tree canopy improvements to achieve goals. The Existing Conditions Analysis Report shared that in the Langston Boulevard planning area:

  • More than 61% of Arlington’s energy use is connected to building sector consumption. The remainder (39%) is associated with transportation. A combination of strategies will be needed to achieve the County’s ambitious energy emissions goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • The core area currently lacks trees and has numerous surface parking lots (impervious surfaces) that create a significant amount of stormwater run-off along the corridor impacting properties downstream.
  • Flooding is occurring outside of flood plains and is brought on by intense storms, structures built over former streams and aging infrastructure—in addition to run-off from impervious surfaces.
  • Redevelopment will be important to meet community goals for sustainability (including energy, stormwater, and green infrastructure/trees). New developments can be built to perform better than existing conditions.
  • County funding may be needed to help offset costs of stormwater management and flood risk reduction that requires expanded engineering and technical approaches (watershed-scale as well as localized infrastructure projects) and aligns with private investments.
  • The public spaces and stormwater management systems should be evaluated as an interconnected network that together can work to minimize flooding impacts.

Neighborhood Inspiration Report + Sustainability and Resilience

The community identified the following sustainability-related priority actions in the Neighborhood Inspiration Report (see also the NIR Appendix).

Area 1: Arlington East Falls Church

  • Revise zoning to allow for greater variety of housing types and promote sustainability while retaining green spaces and adding full canopy trees

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

  • In single-family areas, disincentivize teardowns and incentivize renovations and rebuilds that are affordable, energy-efficient, similar in size as the existing homes, and retains trees and green space
  • Median strips for pedestrian stop points and/or beautification and/or planting for stormwater

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

  • Greenery and open space to create a feeling of openness between buildings and in the public realm
  • Integrate stormwater management into all future plans and designs

Area 4: Cherrydale + Maywood

  • Building designs are compatible with historic homes and buildings in neighborhood, incorporate biophilic designs, and adhere to highest standards for energy efficiency and sustainability (solar panels and storage for resiliency)

Area 5: North Highlands + Lyon Village

  • New types of housing throughout the planning area if sustainability is considered
  • More building height and density north of Langston Boulevard if stormwater and sustainability, including solar roofs, are factored in
  • Improve streetscape and public realm with more trees and other greenery (creative biophilia)
  • Resolve stormwater and flooding issues


  • In the core, explore ways to reduce impervious coverage and retain/increase tree canopy through redevelopment and creation of new tree planting spaces to enhance the connection to nature.
  • Subject to existing or designated curbside inlets, study ways to add curbside rain gardens to streets intersecting Langston Boulevard in the core area.
  • Study ways to incorporate public spaces that can detain stormwater run-off, where large stormwater flows cross Langston Boulevard (including underground assets such as detention pipes and/or vaults).
  • Explore building placement options that orient new buildings to maximize solar access and minimize energy demand.
  • Study ways to address energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities on public and private buildings to address climate change.
  • Study stormwater quality and runoff mitigation strategies including bioretention, green roofs, permeable pavement, and impervious cover removal, tree canopy conservation and planting.

Land Use Scenario Analysis + Sustainability and Resilience

Through several public feedback engagements with the Land Use Scenario Analysis, the community expressed that environmental sustainability and resiliency is a top corridor-wide objective.

Participants shared strong support for:

  • Reducing downstream flood risk with stormwater improvements in all areas

Key areas of concern include:

  • The environmental impact of new development, including adding impervious areas and stormwater runoff, and eliminating trees and green space
  • Relying on development for stormwater improvements in exchange for bonus height and density
  • The cost of stormwater improvements