Arlington, Va. approves its first form-based development project

Form based codes are a form of zoning that focuses more on size, form, and placement of development as opposed to issues of density and land use.

September 20, 2005 |

Washington, DC-based WDG Architecture has completed the design of Columbia Center, a new condominium and retail project located along Arlington’s Columbia Pike Special Revitalization District in Northern Virginia. The development is the first to follow the Columbia Pike Form Based Code project to receive approval to proceed. Construction is set to begin in October 2005, with completion anticipated in 2008.

Columbia Center will preserve and incorporate the historic façade of the Arlington Hardware Store and provide a new home for the Arlington Free Clinic. The eight-story development will include 269 residential units, offering 59 different models. The property also includes 38,000 square feet of street-level retail, 5,700 square –feet of Mezzanine-level retail and three levels of below-grade parking.

Arlington County was one of the first jurisdictions in the United States to pursue the use of a Form Based Code, with the Columbia Pike initiative serving as its most visible model. Incorporating New Urbanist and Smart Growth principles, Form Based Codes are a form of zoning that focuses more on size, form, and placement of development as opposed to issues of density and land use. Form Based Codes are most frequently being applied to aging urban areas in need of revitalization and redevelopment. Their use provides for more flexibility in mixing office, retail, and residential uses—a key goal of many communities as they seek to remedy sprawl and enliven blighted urban cores.

WDG Architecture worked extensively with Arlington County planners and community representatives in designing Columbia Center, which is in the process of being sold by the Georgelas Group to Centex Homes. "The application of the Form Based Code was a strong driver in terms of both the process and the design outcome," says Steven Schwartzman, Project Manager for WDG Architecture. "We paid a lot of attention to issues of scale and the street-front presence. We were able to bring in an art deco feel throughout the façade and lobby—a look that is clean but friendly and approachable." Other members of the WDG project team included: George Dove, FAIA - Principal-in-Charge; Mark Bellonby, AIA, Design Principal; Bob Keane, AIA, Senior Designer; Mary Lou Bakker, AIA, IIDA, Interiors Project Manager; Yaprak Markaset, Interiors Senior Designer; Charles Bergen, AIA, LEED AP, Project Architect; and, William Pegues, FSCI – Specifications. The consulting team includes Girard Engineering for mechanical/electrical engineering, Fernandez & Associates for structural engineering, Cerami and Associates for acoustical engineering, and Stephenson & Good for landscape architecture.

The building’s interior public spaces, including the lobby and off-site sales center, were designed by WDG Interior Architecture. The building’s residential units offer an extensive mix of unit types that responds to the goals of the Form Based Code, which encourages a variety of housing styles. Options will include loft-style units and units featuring expansive curved exterior glass walls that relate to the building’s dramatic curved exterior. Amenities will include a pool with a landscaped plaza, a fitness center, audio visual/media room and a rooftop terrace.

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