Monday, May 06, 2024

Arlington Continues Commercial Initiatives To Battle Office Vacancy

At its April 20, meeting, the Arlington County Board took a major step forward in the implementation of the second round of the County Manager’s Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative (“CMRI”), which seeks to enable the County to better respond to changing economic conditions and consumer trends in the face of increased office vacancy and decreased commercial property tax revenue.  

CMRI was authorized by the County Board in April 2022. The first round of CMRI included the establishment of new commercial uses and a minor restructuring of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (“ACZO”). The second round of CMRI focusses on opportunities to alleviate regulatory hurdles that could impede market solutions to commercial resiliency.  

The most recently approved initiatives include the following:  

  • Adaptive Reuse of Obsolete Commercial Buildings: The County Board approved a Request to Advertise (“RTA”) amendments to the ACZO to update the review standards and process for adaptive reuse of obsolete commercial buildings. The RTA recommends potential changes to the Zoning Ordinance in the hopes of creating a more streamlined process for building façade changes, methods for achieving additional density, policies related to community benefits, and the practice of updating older site plan conditions to the current site plan standards. These changes could be adopted as early as September 2024. 
  • Related measures, which are anticipated to be considered later this summer, include consideration of appropriate uses for adaptive reuse projects (e.g., live-work units, self-storage, and residential-hotel units), imbedded carbon savings in rehabilitation projects, and financial incentives for adaptive reuse. Information about this RTA may be found HERE.
  • Increased Rosslyn Density: The County Board approved an RTA to amend the Zoning Ordinance to allow additional density above a 10.0 FAR for existing buildings and approved, but unbuilt, site plan developments in the C-O Rosslyn Zoning District. This effort is primarily geared towards the conversion of already-approved GFA exclusion areas or gross parking areas into GFA in exchange for community benefits. The Planning Commission may consider this as early as July 8, 2024, with the County Board consideration at its July 20th meeting. The staff report for this RTA may be found HERE.
  • Compact Car Parking: The County Board approved an amendment to the ACZO to allow compact parking spaces for hospitals, hospital-related medical and healthcare facilities, medical offices, retail sales, service uses and guest/visitor parking. The amendment also replaces the existing parking requirement for “athletic or health clubs” (one space per 50 square feet of GFA) with that of the more general “retail and service commercial uses” (one space per 250 feet of GFA). Additional information may be found HERE. Further insights are available from firm Land Use Planner, Elliott Young, HERE.

The County Board will continue to consider policy and ACZO amendments in the coming months, and will review the following at its May 18, 2024 meeting: 

  • Shared/Offsite Parking Requirements: The Board will consider Zoning Ordinance amendments to amend share parking and off-site parking in commercial mixed-use districts, alongside changes to definitions, parking/loading standards.  
  • Large Outdoor Media Screens:  The Board will consider Zoning Ordinance amendments to permit such visual display screens in certain large mixed-use developments. The amendment would replace the current Zoning Ordinance definition of “Large Media Screens,” and add definitions and performance standards regarding brightness, hours of operation. Additional information may be found HERE

Additional information on CMRI may be found HERE.

This article was written by Shareholder Andrew Painter.