Arlington County Board Adopts Langston Boulevard Area Plan

Published on November 11, 2023

Langston Boulevard artist illustration

On Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, the Arlington County Board adopted the Langston Boulevard Area Plan, concluding a multiyear process.

The Board also adopted a series of amendments to the General Land Use Plan (GLUP), Master Transportation Plan (MTP) Map, and Zoning Ordinance related to the Plan Langston Boulevard study. These amendments establish a Langston Boulevard Planning District that allows new multifamily, commercial, and/or mixed-use development and identifies potential new streets and bicycle connections, increasing opportunities for affordable housing, sustainable and climate-facing development, and new public spaces, among other things.

Ultimately, the plan will help transform the predominantly car-oriented, strip commercial and residential, 4.5-mile-long corridor into a green, mixed-use main street that provides safe and multimodal access and is rooted in environmental resiliency, economic sustainability, and equity.

“I am proud of the new vision for a resilient and equitable Langston Boulevard that was developed through years of work with the community,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “The plan’s land use framework and design guidelines will shape the new development in this corridor by helping expand the housing supply and its commercial base, improving its transit network and the connectivity of its public spaces, and strengthening the overall climate resiliency of the corridor by managing stormwater effectively, adding quality green spaces, and improving energy efficiency.”

WATCH:County Board Discussion

About the Plan

The Langston Boulevard Area Plan provides a series of policies and implementation strategies to guide future public and private development decisions in a positive, purposeful way.

During the planning process, Langston Boulevard was divided into five neighborhood areas to explore variations in character and community priorities. Neighborhood-specific recommendations were made for three of the neighborhood areas as two areas, East Falls Church and Cherrydale, already have adopted plans to guide development. The Langston Boulevard plan focuses policies on nine key planning elements: Land Use, Economic Vitality, Housing, Public Facilities and Schools, Building Form and Heights, Historic and Cultural Resources, Transportation and Connectivity, Public Spaces, and Sustainability and Resilience.

The plan updates the land-use vision that has guided the area since the County’s General Land Use Plan was first adopted in 1961 and provides property owners additional options and incentives for redeveloping their properties. The land-use policies from the 1960s effectively institutionalized the car-oriented commercial corridor that was common at that time and reinforced historical zoning decisions that limited housing opportunities for Black or African American residents along the corridor. It also offered limited opportunities for reinvestment and redevelopment and did not reflect many of the community’s current goals.

The Board’s action on November 11 came after community members provided comment during the public hearing, in addition to the thousands who participated during the planning process that began in 2019. Many aspects of the adopted plan reflect input from the community, including feedback received since the initial draft plan was released in June.   

The adopted plan, which the Board made several amendments to, includes the following:

Mixed-use Development Areas

  • Creating opportunities to transform the entire corridor through mixed-use development at locations, including Lyon Village Shopping Center and Lee Heights Shops, and intersections, including North Harrison Street, Moore’s Barbershop/Langston Brown High School Continuation Program and Community Center, Old Dominion Drive, and Spout Run Parkway
  • Priority areas at key intersections and at the geographic center of the corridor, (e.g., Lee Heights Shops) where ground floor space is reserved and/or built ready for retail, shops, and services.

Housing

  • Projected to increase overall housing supply to 19,600-26,300 units by 2075
  • Projected to increase affordable housing to 3,200-3,800 units by 2075 to enable more equitable housing options
    • The Board amended the plan to validate the goal of realizing 2,500 affordable housing units by 2040, to align with the projections in the Affordable Housing Master Plan.

Building Heights

  • In Area 2, building heights range from 3-7 stories, with the highest allowance at the North Harrison Street intersection.
    • The Board voted to lower maximum allowable heights from 5 to 4 stories, with a transition to 3 stories, on the south side of Langston Boulevard between N. Emerson Street and 5000 Langston Blvd bordering the Hall’s Hill neighborhood.
    • The Board voted to require a transition from 5 stories to up to 4 stories along 22nd Road N between N Buchanan Street and N Columbus Street.
  • In Area 3, building heights range from 4-10 stories, with the highest allowance along the south side of Langston Boulevard.
  • In Area 5, building heights range from 4-15 stories, with the highest allowance along Spout Run Parkway and I-66.
  • In all areas, building heights transition to fewer stories as they get closer to adjacent lower-density residential properties.

Transportation and Urban Design

  • Applies Complete Streets and Vision Zero practices to Langston Boulevard
  • New proposed streets and bicycle connections in Areas 2, 3, and 5
    • The Board amended the plan to direct that any connections at 25th Road North be pedestrian and bicycle access focused.
  • Headways 10 minutes or less on bus routes as ridership increases
  • A variety of parking types, including structured, and below ground, on-site and on-street, and shared formats to encourage parking nodes

Public Spaces

  • 28 new privately-owned public spaces, including parks and plazas
  • 17,200 linear feet of greenways (pedestrian and bicycle connections)

Climate Resiliency

  • Increased tree canopy to 35% in the Core Area.
    • The Board added language clarifying the priority of conserving and expanding, to the extent possible, the tree canopy while balancing other sustainability and resiliency policies.
  • Stormwater improvements to minimize downstream flooding
  • Prioritization of biophilic design, green infrastructure, and undergrounding utilities
  • Encourages green building design

The County Board also committed to engaging VDOT and WMATA about joint development opportunities at the East Falls Church Metro station in the short term to determine when East Falls Church planning should be prioritized to occur.

More: Review the full draft plan

About the Study

Plan Langston Boulevard was a multi-year planning process that launched in response to a community grassroots effort led by the Langston Boulevard Alliance (LBA) that began more than a decade ago. Seeking an alternative to by-right development, the LBA advocated for guided long-term public and private investment in the corridor through a comprehensive plan and vision.   

Since the study’s kickoff in 2019, a broad set of stakeholders engaged with the County through both in-person and virtual opportunities. Feedback from the community informed milestone reports, including the Existing Conditions Report, Historic and Cultural Resources Report, Langston Boulevard Zine, Neighborhood Inspiration Report, Land Use Scenario Analysis, Preliminary Concept Plan, and drafts of the final plan.

In addition, several County commissions, including the Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Transportation Commission, Park and Recreation Commission, Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, Forestry and Natural Resources Commission, and Economic Development Commission, reviewed and made recommendations on the draft plan, and GLUP, MTP, and Zoning Ordinance amendments.

Staff will revise the draft plan based on the Board’s actions and post the final plan on the County website. To learn more, visit the Plan Langston Boulevard webpage.

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