Arlington leaders looks to bring changes to Columbia Pike

Major change is slated for part of Arlington to make Columbia Pike a more attractive destination.{ }

Right now, county leaders are fine-tuning their 30-year "neighborhoods" plan, which lays out a vibrant mix of retail, residential and commercial development.

Columbia Pike has been transforming since the late 90s when Arlington County embarked on a planning process called the "Columbia Pike Initiative".{ } The plan was to create a cleaner more competitive community.

Now, county leaders are eyeing a new plan that preserves affordable housing, but give the area a more urban flair.

In the past four years, four apartment buildings have been constructed and six more housing projects are in the works.

That's in addition to a new community center and high school.

Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, said, "It's bringing life again in a place that's been lacking this life until recently or at least has been lagging behind other places in Arlington."

In addition to heading the revitalization organization, Karantonis also joins the more than 36,000 people who call the corridor home.

"We are looking into creating or re-creating actually a Main Street on Columbia Pike," Karantonis explained.

To reach their goal, county planners are proposing ambitious changes over the next three decades designed to draw in a diverse group of people with mixed incomes.

There's a push for more open, green space. New businesses that could soar 10 stories high, adding up to 10,000 new market rate and committed affordable housing units.

Developers and property owners would be offered tax incentives and zoning tools to renovate existing units.

Resident Burt Laposka said, "In Arlington, the only way that you build new properties is that you take old properties down, and I know that there are a number of older apartment buildings out here. My concern is that they get torn down and people get displaced."

Resident Kyle McCormick countered, " I think some of the old buildings actually need to be replaced and sort of give a new vibe, sort of a fresh scent if you will to the Pike.

Mapping out the next 30 years also entails new transportation .

Streetcar service is a good possibility, as Arlington is close to maxing out bus ridership in the corridor. And some people who say they won't ride a bus admit they would ride a streetcar.

None of the proposed changes are a done deal. The County Board is holding a public hearing later next month for residents to weigh in and give their suggestions.