Columbia Pike, also known as Virginia State Route 244, is more than a major roadway to nearby residents in South Arlington, Virginia. Once considered the county's Main Street, this corridor of neighborhoods entered into a lengthy period of lagging economics and property values during the modern era, due to a lack of metro rail transportation. Metro-line services has been considered during various periods, beginning in the 1960's but the plans never came to fruition. In 2002, Arlington County began implementing the Columbia Pike Initiative, a long-ranging plan for high-capacity transit which would roll out in phases. Integrally linked to the initiative is the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), a partnership between individual neighborhoods, government, business leaders and community organizers, aimed at transforming the area into a sustainable economic success story. In many ways this is similar to revitalization efforts across the Potomac in Washington DC, where residents, government and grassroots organizers have combined to great effect.
The centerpiece to Columbia Pike's revitalization efforts has been the desire for some form of rail transportation. This has been the toughest nut to crack. Success finally seemed to be on the horizon when, after years of planning and consideration, the County Board voted to fund the building of the Columbia Pike Streetcar. This would have been a modern streetcar system similar to those being built in Washington DC along H Street and Benning Road, and in the Crystal City and Potomac Yard areas. Electric-powered modern streetcars are becoming increasingly prevalent in urban settings across the country, operating in mixed traffic (the same lanes as private vehicles) with an average speed of 8-15 miles an hour which is normal for high-density traffic areas. Unfortunately, in November 2014, Arlington County did an about-face and voted down the funding.
Instead, Arlington, in partnership with Fairfax County and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) , rolled out an enhanced bus service termed Super Stops in the interim. The first Super Stop to deliver was the Walter Reed East prototype, with an ultimate goal of 24 stations along Columbia Pike as it transitions into a major transit corridor once again. These Super Stop stations offer ample seating, enhanced lighting and electronic real time information on bus arrival information. The Pike bus service (Metrobus and ART) currently serves more than 16,000 weekday riders, a number that is on par with many urban rail and streetcar programs across the country.
While the cancellation of the electric streetcar was disappointing, there are many other facets to the overall revitalization efforts. This corridor has functioned for transit since the 1800's but there is no denying that the area hasn't enjoyed the same uptick in prosperity as some other parts of Washington Metro. Property owners in the ten most closely associated Columbia Pike neighborhoods will attest to the fact that home values have been sluggish for far too long. That is beginning to change. An overall recovering housing market plus new confidence stemming from CPRO efforts, is combining to boost home prices throughout Pike communities. Among the many current construction projects in the works for the corridor are enhanced sidewalks, tree plantings, the realignment of intersections, installation of underground utilities and the replacement of the Washington Boulevard Bridge. Increased commercial, residential and mixed-use development is also well underway. Over the past four years, developers have added 1,000 residential units and 200,000 square-feet of commercial space along the corridor.
The CPRO is a very hands-on organization, not only working toward growth and development but also promoting all sorts of fun community events and functions. Among the many activities this summer are live music and movie nights at Penrose Square, a Hike the Pike Challenge to visit nine Pike restaurants within a month, the Columbia Pike Blues Festival and the always popular Farmers Market which is held every Sunday at 9:00 AM. The Columbia Pike revitalization efforts stretch well beyond the present of course with long term goals projected out to 2040. Using smart sustainable growth models, planners and developers will preserve a significant amount of affordable housing while adding 2.2 million square-feet of commercial development, 3,900 new homes, 7,000 new jobs and 7,300 new residents. There's obviously a lot on Columbia Pike's plate now and in the future. DCSales.com and District One Properties will keep its clients and readers updated every step of the way.
Andre Perez | District One Properties LLC | Realtor/Agent/Owner
1305 Leslie Ave, Alkexandria, VA 22301