Katie Cristol speaks at Leadership Center for Excellence event

Arlington County Board Chairman Katie Cristol speaks at a Leadership Center for Excellence event held Jan. 18, 2018 at Founders Hall on the Arlington campus of George Mason University. (Leadership Center for Excellence photo)

As the Arlington County government and school system move forward with plans to redevelop the Arlington Career Center site, they are being urged to think long-term and view the forest for the trees.

“We see this as a huge opportunity to create a crown jewel of Columbia Pike. The only question is the amount of money that might be invested,” said Cecelia Cassidy, who heads the Columbia Pike Revitalization organization, during a Jan. 18 community roundtable with County Board Chairman Katie Cristol.

A well-crafted redevelopment of the Career Center parcel would “help the Pike rise up,” Cassidy said, noting the county government’s past efforts (and cash) spent on similar efforts elsewhere in the county.

Part of the Career Center site is owned by the county government, the rest by the school system. County Board members and their School Board colleagues recently empaneled another of Arlington’s ubiquitous working groups, whose members will study possibilities on the parcel, located a block north of Columbia Pike adjacent to Walter Reed Drive.

A final report from the group is due back to elected officials in August.

In addition to the Career Center building, the site also includes Patrick Henry Elementary School, Arlington Community High School, Columbia Pike Library and – perhaps most enticing to planners – a large surface-parking area.

In response to Cassidy, Cristol said she agrees with the assessment of doing the development right, rather than rushing it.

“I am very excited about the Career Center [possibilities],” Cristol said. “We have this resource; what do we want it to look like in 25 years?”

Cristol said there would be a chance to “sketch out that plan over time” rather than hurtle into decision-making.

“I’m really optimistic about the opportunity,” she said.

School Board members already have committed to adding between 700 and 800 high-school seats to the parcel by 2022. How radical the eventual redevelopment of the site is could depend on whether there are funds available; similar efforts to redevelop the county government’s landholdings in the Courthouse area (which also has a large surface-parking lot) have foundered for a lack of available cash and no consensus on what should go there.

Cassidy, who previously headed the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (an area of the county that has seen recent major investments by the local government), said it was a plus to have Cristol, who lives in South Arlington, at the helm as the Career Center planning process begins.

“It’s good to see a Columbia Pike neighbor,” Cassidy said.

That familiarity is likely to continue in 2019, when current County Board vice chairman Christian Dorsey (who also lives in the area) is expected to ascend to the chairmanship.

Unmentioned at the Jan. 18 forum, but still hanging, however tenuously, in the air is the question of a Columbia Pike streetcar project. While the initial plan for a five-mile, $300 million link between Pentagon City and Skyline was killed off by the County Board in 2014, it never has been formally buried, and conceivably could be brought back to life.

For now, however, Arlington officials are focusing on upgrading existing bus service in the corridor, with new branding efforts and high-tech stops.

(3) comments

CJE

Katie Cristol should not run for re-election to the County Board. County Government and APS are committed to growing the County by 60,000 to 70,000 residents by 2040 (22 years), even without Amazon. Primary focus of County Government and APS must be on adequate public infrastructure across the County, not on extravagant project after extravagant project that serve the wants of special interest groups.

Dave Schutz

Jay Fisette said: "..“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”"
How are you extracting from the 4-1 passage of the Hynes-Fisette resolution cancelling the streetcar some notion that it can drag itself out of the grave? The stake driven through its heart was the wrong kind of wood? Not enough holy water sprinkled on it? Once drawn and quartered the corpse of the project was burned in only one pyre instead of four separate pyres at the four corners of the County? What, exactly, do you need? Just wondering.

jna

Local Media are all out for all the revenue their Owners and Publishers can obtain by supporting extravagant "Growth for the Sake of Growth." Taj Mahal streetcar system, Taj Mahal Aquatic Center, Taj Mahal Career Center, Taj Mahal Amazon Headquarters. More and more people packed into an already-crowded County, what do they care?

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