Growing along the lines
Arlington County, Va., officials first adopted smart-growth principles in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they decided to reroute a key Metro line and plan for high-to-medium density mixed-use communities at the Metrorail stations. Since then, the county has continued to build on its vision through a mix of transportation and development initiatives.
In the late 1990s, the county adopted the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System to measure the energy and environmental performance of county buildings. In 2000, to encourage developers to build more efficient buildings, the county began to require that all site plan applications include a completed LEED scorecard, and the county offered a bonus density incentive to developers designing green buildings. Since then, a total of 10 LEED-certified projects have been built in Arlington — including two projects at the Pentagon, one school, five new office buildings, and two interior office spaces — totaling hundreds of thousands of square feet. In addition, the first LEED Platinum building in Virginia was recently approved in Arlington County. “It’s been critical for Arlington County to remain at the forefront of the ‘green’ movement,” says Joan Kelsch, an environmental planner for the county. “Initially, we incorporated sustainable development as a community building, leadership strategy, eventually offering building incentives because green buildings have many benefits, such as better use of building resources, significant operational savings, and increased workplace productivity.”
Since the 1970s, Arlington’s primary growth plans have been based on transit-oriented development built along two Metro corridors. Over the decades, the county has created dense, mixed-use urban developments within walking distance from five Metro stops. Between the communities of Ballston, Crystal City, Clarendon, Court House and Rosslyn, more than 21 million square feet of commercial office and retail space and 22,000 residential units are located in “urban villages” where people live, shop, work and play using transit, pedestrian walkways and bicycles. Cars are typically the last transportation option and are often shared. As a result, Arlington has won several awards, including one last year from the Washington-based Coalition for Smarter Growth.
To complement the physical changes in the community, county planners have launched public campaigns to raise awareness of sustainable development opportunities. In early 2007, County Board Chair Paul Ferguson began “Fresh AIRE” (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from county operations 10 percent by 2012. To achieve that goal, the county is recognizing and assisting businesses to reduce emissions and energy needs; encouraging residents to reduce their energy use; and lowering the government’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Project: Sustainable development strategies
Jurisdiction: Arlington County, Va.
Agency: Arlington Economic Development