East Falls Church is located along Arlington’s western edge adjacent to the City of Falls Church and bisected by Interstate 66 and Metrorail’s orange line. It’s an attractive residential community with single-family homes, townhouses, parks, schools and some commercial and industrial use centered around the intersection of Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Interstate 66.
In 1936, East Falls Church rejoined Arlington County after having been a part of the town of Falls Church for over 60 years. Most of the single-family homes were built between the 1930s and 1950s as the area became a suburb of Washington, D.C. It was also at this time that the metropolitan region experienced a significant population experience, just as streetcars and trolleys were being replaced by an expanding network of roads and highways.
Planning efforts for this neighborhood included the East Falls Church Land Use Study, adopted by the County Board in May 1986. The study recommended: preserving residential neighborhoods, enhancing convenience service commercial uses and coordinating new development near the County line with the style and scale of new development in the City of Falls Church. A citizen-based task force was appointed in 2007 to help develop a plan for East Falls Church and to generate a vision for transit-oriented development near the Metrorail station.
The County Board adopted the East Falls Church Area Plan in April 2011 and designated this area as the East Falls Church Neighborhood Center District. The area plan builds on recommendations from the citizen task force, including:
- Preserving single-family areas and historic and natural resources;
- Limiting building heights to four to six stories along building frontages, with specific height guidance for the park-and-ride site up to nine stories;
- Outlining goals and strategies for attaining affordable housing units;
Major challenges in developing a plan for the area were connecting both sides of I-66 through better bicycle and pedestrian facilities, addressing current and future traffic issues, and providing opportunities for mixed-use development that complements the character of the neighborhood.
Key elements of the plan include:
- A “Neighborhood Center” vision for that includes preserving the surrounding single-family neighborhoods, preserving and creating new open spaces, providing opportunities for additional neighborhood-oriented retail and enhancing pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Metrorail station;
- A new mixed-use development node at the existing 422-space park-and-ride site to include: ground floor retail, a pool of 100 to 200 shared public parking spaces priced to favor short-term parkers, a public open space and continuation of existing bus operations;
- New public open spaces adjacent to the W&OD Trail near Lee Highway;
Urban Design and Guidelines for Future Development
Urban Design guidelines are created to help ensure that future development is aligned with planning goals and to improve the visual character of East Falls Church through the coordinated creation of efficient, sustainable, and livable places. These guidelines identify objectives important to the neighborhood, such as pleasant, walkable sidewalks that connect the surrounding residential neighborhoods to area amenities, neighborhood-serving retail, calmer streets that include bicycle lanes and on-street parking, and building heights that complement surrounding uses.
Design goals include:
- Establish compatible relationships between the new buildings’ bulk, form and materials and the surrounding residential neighborhood;
- Create lively and dynamic public environments that are accessible to all users;
- Promote high quality architecture that uses superior modern materials and design vocabulary that also acknowledges the history of East Falls Church;