Smart Growth

Arlington Is Recognized as a Leader in Smart Growth Development

One of the pillars of our smart growth policy involves focusing high-density, mixed-use development along three primary transportation corridors, while preserving open space and existing residential neighborhoods. We accomplish this by having well defined zoning and land-use policies and plans that guide development for specific projects, neighborhoods and the County as a whole.

Growth is “smart” when it creates attractive communities with a range of housing and transportation options near jobs, shops, services and schools. We’ve been employing smart growth strategies since long before the term was coined in the 1990s — beginning with planning the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which is recognized as a model for smart growth success.

Lunch and Learn Webinar

Watch urban thinker Christopher Leinberger discuss why Arlington serves as a model for the nation on sustainable urban development in this November 2014 webinar. Learn why he says “Arlington is the most important suburban place in the country” (“The Suburb of the Future is Here” He also discusses the role transportation investments will play in Arlington’s future.

The Principles of Smart Growth

Smart growth involves a set of principles to guide development and land-use decisions. These principles were developed by the Smart Growth Network, a partnership of government agencies, developers, environmentalists, historic preservation advocates, professional organizations and interests from the real estate industry. It was launched by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1996.

  • Mix land uses
  • Take advantage of compact building design
  • Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
  • Create walkable neighborhoods
  • Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
  • Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas
  • Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
  • Provide a variety of transportation choices
  • Make development decisions predictable, fair and cost-effective
  • Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions

How Arlingtonians Benefit From Smart Growth

Smart growth is an approach that’s good for the local economy, the environment and the people who live and work here. Among the most obvious benefits are easy access to public transportation and walkable neighborhoods with great restaurants, shopping and lively nightlife. Other benefits include:

  • Commute time in Arlington is lower than the average commute time for the region.
  • Arlington residents help reduce the area’s carbon footprint: 40 percent of Rosslyn-Ballston corridor residents take public transportation to work; 16 percent don’t own a car; and 6 percent of Arlington’s work force walks to work.
  • Arlingtonians enjoy an excellent quality of life. According to a 2012 resident survey by the County Manager, 92 percent of County residents rate their quality of life as “good” or “very good”; and approximately 75 percent are satisfied with the quality of Metro, ease of traveling around the County and availability of bike lanes and trails.
  • Arlington’s urban villages contribute to a strong local economy. According to a study by Arlington Economic Development, the urban villages yield approximately $250,000 in taxes per net acre, ranging from $357,000 per acre in Rosslyn to $132,000 in Clarendon.
  • While Arlington has experienced significant growth, traffic has been reduced, according to Reconnecting America.
  • Arlington has the lowest property tax rate ($1.006 per $100 FMV) of any jurisdiction in northern Virginia and among the highest levels of services.

Smart Growth Presentation

Smart Growth slideshowThis slide presentation reveals how Arlington planned for Smart Growth and continues to profit from those decisions today.