Urban Design

Design & Review

We provide information and resources for architects, developers, residents, business owners, planners and elected officials — everyone with a stake in Arlington’s future. We provide the platform for an ongoing discussion about the urban planning, development and design that will ensure Arlington remains an attractive, functional and sustainable community for generations to come.

Design & Review

At its heart, urban design is about creating great places. To build great places, we must consider all of the elements that make up a place — from buildings, streets and public transportation to parks, walkways and open space. Arlington’s approach to urban design covers all of these aspects by focusing on architecture, landscape architecture, planning and design.

Urban Design Guidelines and Standards

Arlington has incorporated urban design concepts into its planning efforts since the 1970s. Urban design and Smart Growth principles are integral components of our comprehensive planning process, and are incorporated within most of our area plans. Our work includes:

  • Providing strategic design assistance to developers and staff during the entitlement process
  • Working with planners and developers to ensure that new development meets County standards
  • Compiling and updating landscape standards
  • Recommending strategies to improve the urban environment and public realm
  • Creating and communicating urban design concepts and guidelines
  • Conducting studies to address specific planning issues

Examples of Urban Design

One example of our leading with design is using form based codes in the Columbia Pike corridor to achieve the community’s vision for vibrant, mixed-use places. Form based codes guide development and revitalization through design regulations that shape the look and feel of buildings, link the corridor with public transit and walkable streets and create public gathering places.

Another example is influencing design through historic preservation. Our Historic Preservation Master Plan allows us to integrate preservation goals and design considerations into planning initiatives in a manner that respects both our heritage and our historic built environment. We also have created detailed design guidelines for our locally protected historic sites that help owners and their design teams maintain the defining historic characteristics of their properties.

Outreach & Advocacy

The Urban Design section contributes to many community benefits, including quality of life, environmental and economic development. We want to further this discussion so as our community grows and redevelopment occurs, we maintain the same quality environment that makes Arlington a great place to live and work. Learn more about our outreach and advocacy efforts:

DESIGNArlington is a biennial awards program that recognizes excellence in design, showcasing distinctive projects in our community.

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Videos and presentation aides from a variety of events and programs that raise awareness about how urban design can impact a community.

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The Urban Design section collaborates with local schools on assorted visioning projects as a way to generate new ideas and give students vital experience.

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Project Portfolio

The Urban Design section both leads and collaborates on a variety of different projects and initiatives. The following are some of the sector plans, forecasts, presentations and other special projects in progress or recently completed.

Ballston Quarter Pedestrian Bridge

Ballston Quarter Pedestrian Bridge

Summer 2019 | This project involves the redesign and replacement of the original pedestrian bridge linking the former Ballston Common Mall and Ballston Metro. This is a collaborative effort between studioTECHNE, the Forest City project team, County staff and the Public Art Committee.

Project page

Population & Employment Forecasts

Population and Employment Forecasts

Ongoing | We prepare regular estimates and forecasts of population, employment and housing statistics to assist with the planning and development process. We also contribute data to Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Cooperative Forecasting Program.

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Historical Report of the Pentagon City PDSP – 1976-2018

Pentagon City

Feb. 2018 | A comprehensive review of the Pentagon City Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) over the past 40 years, including all County Board actions related to land use and density allocations.

Part 1 | Part 2

Rosslyn Streetscape Elements Plan

Rosslyn Streetscape

June 2017 | The Plan provides guidance on streetscape elements (furnishings), an approach for implementation and a prototype design for a parklet – a publicly accessible deck platform that serves as an extension of the sidewalk.

Project page

Pop-Up Plaza Under the Soldier's Tree

Pop Up Plaza

August 2016 | Over the course of two days, County staff constructed a pop-up plaza under the Soldier’s Tree at Courthouse Plaza in place of relocated handicapped parking spaces.

Watch the video

Lee Highway Visioning Study

Lee Highway Visioning

May 2016 | A grassroots planning effort led by community leaders paved the way for a community-wide visioning process and the recently published Lee Highway Visioning Study.

Visioning page

Courthouse Square — Sector Plan Addendum

Courthouse Square — Sector Plan Addendum

Sept. 2015 | This long-range plan will guide the development of a new civic center and public destination for Arlington over the next several decades. The plan proposes ten “big ideas,” which include moving parking underground, central metro access, a 21st century civic square and more.

Project page

Community Facilities Study — Demographics Presentation

CFS Demographics

March 2015 | This demographics presentation answers several questions, including why school enrollment is increasing, whether new multi-family housing and committed affordable housing developments are affecting school enrollment, and more. Watch the video (Part 1 | Part 2)

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