The Courthouse Metro Station Area comprises about 240 acres and includes a mix of residential, government, office and retail development. Since 1898, when the courthouse was relocated from the City of Alexandria to Fort Myer Heights, the County government has been a central focus of this area.
The County Board adopted the Courthouse Sector Plan in 1981 and Addendum in 1993, laying out the vision for a model urban government center surrounded by a mix of high-density office and residential uses and the preservation of nearby residential neighborhoods.
The plan incorporates policies and urban design concepts adopted for the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. It was developed with significant input from the community and contains some of the key planning principles that helped to establish the existing character of Courthouse, including:
- Focus redevelopment within the central core around the Metro station and preserve existing residential neighborhoods;
- Develop Courthouse Plaza as a visual focal point of the Metro Station Area, with the plaza and promenade tying together the government and private office buildings, retail space, theaters and the residential structure located at the center of the complex; and
- Provide underground parking as new residential and office/commercial buildings are developed.
Courthouse also has several special districts to help guide development in the area. A Coordinated Preservation and Development District was adopted in 1977 to help preserve the Colonial Village garden apartment complex while still allowing for new development. There also are two Special Affordable Housing Protection Districts for The Odyssey and the North Troy Street Residential area.
Urban Design and Guidelines for Future Development
The Courthouse urban design concept plan addresses street patterns, location and type of open space, network of pedestrian/vehicular connectors, and open space linkages. These are the elements that comprise the area’s public environment and tie individual projects together to create a coherent neighborhood. Urban design elements include:
- A unique urban character and sense of place created through the development of an urban design framework that includes quality architecture, distinctive streetscape, and unique entryways and open space features;
- A focal point within the Courthouse Metro Station area;
- A unified pedestrian walkway system and efficient vehicular system that is easily understood by pedestrians and motorists;
- A coordinated open space system that links plazas, promenades and small parks throughout the core of the Courthouse area;
- A retail plan to guide appropriate locations and mix of retail uses within the Courthouse area, creating the critical mass needed for a thriving urban area.
For planning purposes, the Courthouse Station Area includes three distinct sections and each has some general guidelines for future development:
- North Courthouse: Much of this area has been slated for preservation including the Lyon Village community and Colonial Village apartment complex, although there are some opportunities for infill development.
- Central Courthouse: This area contains the government center surrounded by high-density office and apartment development.
- South Courthouse: This area lies largely outside the quarter-mile radius from the Metro station and therefore represents a tapering to lower density development. The area has been planned for significant preservation with some opportunity for infill development.