Region Forward Blog

Urbanism increasing in DC's suburbs

Oct 6, 2011
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The three largest jurisdictions in the region (Fairfax Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties) are planning for dramatic transformations and showing that density transit and mixed-use development are not antithetical to the suburbs.

Earlier this week Montgomery County voted to approve a potentially transformative development plan. The plan which did not pass without first stirring up controversy will enable redevelopment of many of the County’s more sprawling areas into walkable mixed-use centers with a focus on areas with new and existing transit service.

There’s a lot of new transit coming to the County in the next decade (the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway primarily) and this plan seeks to take a proactive approach in helping the County get the most benefit from that new transit. The benefits of taking a proactive approach to development around a planned transit line are evidenced by the much-heralded success of Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

In late September Maryland announced that it would be moving the headquarters of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development to New Carrollton choosing a location near transit over sprawl (Metro MARC Amtrak and several bus lines serve the area). Furthermore the Department will be part of a new mixed-use development with offices retail apartments and even a performing arts center.

In addition to the demand brought by employment therefore New Carrollton will become a more complete center in its own right. The decision aligns with Governor O’Malley’s priority of encouraging development around many of the underutilized Metro stations in Prince George’s County.

On the other side of the District Fairfax County is continuing to move forward with the widely publicized Tysons Transformation turning Tysons Corner currently a bastion of commuters with very little actual residents into a genuine city complete with housing jobs retail entertainment sidewalks and transit. Of course the extension of Metro into Tysons is the driving force behind this transformation though housing is also a critical element.

As the region’s second largest business district (behind downtown Washington) Tysons is accordingly replete with workers. However it is essentially devoid of residents. And the current lack of transit means all those workers have to drive into Tysons every day. This imbalance is what creates the massive congestion problems in the area. However Fairfax Planners recently gave the green light to dramatically increasing the amount of housing in Tysons thus supporting an essential part of the area’s transformation. The development of an actual city appears indeed to be underway.

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