Commercial Market Resiliency FAQ

What is Commercial Market Resiliency?

Commercial Market Resiliency refers to the ability to establish targeted efforts to support:
  • A Robust Commercial Real Estate Market
  • Arlington’s Fiscal Balance
  • Private Sector Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Consumer Choice and a Dynamic Housing Market
  • Arlington’s Standing as a Great, Sustainable Places

Why start an initiative now?

Many areas, including Arlington, are experiencing rapid shifts in:

  • The economic model that impacts land use decisions
  • Where and how people work
  • Consumer behavior and expectations
  • Business practice innovations
  • Definition of what once were well-defined land uses


How is Arlington’s commercial market impacted?

A shift in Arlington’s workforce affects the office vacancy rate. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a new hybrid work model that created a wholesale shift in how office space is used in Arlington and nationally. Because of the demand for remote work more companies are letting leases expire or downsizing their footprint/square footage. Aging buildings and an oversupply of office space result in less commercial office space being occupied.

How is Arlington approaching this effort?

The goal is to modernize regulations, practices, and processes to affect building supply, specifically the repositioning and converting obsolete commercial inventory. The County seeks to remove regulatory barriers and constraints to achieve market-based commercial solutions and is working on four overlapping components:

  • Understanding New or Shifting Uses
  • Should such uses be located on the ground floor and/or the upper stories of commercial building?
  • What are the new, emerging uses?
  • How can we allow existing, permitted uses in all commercial buildings?
  • Processes to Consider Such Uses
  • What are the current Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) use categories? Do these new and emerging uses fit in?
  • How can we better coordinate our internal and external processes to be more streamlined?
  • Do we accommodate these new and emerging uses by-right? With specific use standards? 
  • Entitlements for Such Uses
  • Do we accommodate these new and emerging uses by-right? With specific use standards? Through special exception use permits or site plan amendments? 
  • Other Process Changes
  • In addition to accommodating the new and emerging uses, other processes could be modified to enhance the flexibility of Arlington’s commercial market.

What steps has Arlington taken in this effort already?

Since 2022, the County has focused on new and shifting uses for commercial spaces to increase opportunities for businesses. The commercial use expansions that the Board adopted over the past year include micro-fulfillment centers, urban agriculture, artisan beverage and workshop facilities, research and development spaces, food delivery services and establishments, and more.

What is the next phase of this initiative going to include?

The second phase of the initiative, known as CMRI 2.0, will focus on five strategic areas: office conversion, repositioning, redevelopment, tenant support, and placemaking.

The County identified specific workstreams for staff so they can act quickly to address all strategic areas simultaneously. The workstreams include exploring how to:

  • Best address outdated conditions within legacy site plans
  • Appropriately and efficiently make changes to existing site plans
  • Streamline processes to meet commercial tenants’ needs
  • Ensure Arlington stays current with shifting trends and consumer behaviors

Each workstream team will engage with the community as appropriate for the work in each area, in accordance with our community engagement practices, to solicit input and feedback on how we are approaching this important issue.

Is this only about helping commercial property owners?

No. The office vacancy rate affects the revenue stream and impacts the Arlington budget and overall services—and that impacts the entire community.

Historically, Arlington had close to a 50-50 split between its residential and commercial tax bases. A decrease in commercial property tax revenue shifts more of the burden to residential tax revenue.  Revenue generated from commercial properties and businesses plays an important role in funding the services and amenities the community wants from their County and government. When these revenues decrease, services and programs that benefit all residents are impacted.

Is the County doing anything outside of this initiative to address commercial market needs?

Yes, the County has taken many steps to meet the needs of its businesses and the commercial market. Among them are:

  • Continued attraction of new tenants to Arlington through the efforts of our Arlington Economic Development (AED) team
  • The improved permitting process and full shift to online permitting through Permit Arlington
  • Approved administrative guidelines to make shifts between commercial and residential uses easier
  • A streamlined approach for outdoor cafes from the Future of Outdoor Dining study
  • Important AED initiatives include the GRANT program, the Arlington Innovation Fund, the All in Arlington tourism branding, BizLaunch, ReLaunch, and other business services