Clarendon Center

Tags for this project:
A busy intersection with plenty of pedestrian traffic.A bustling plaza at Clarendon CenterPedestrians of all varieties enjoy what the area offers

Location: Arlington, VA. Block, Street, and Building

SITE: 2.2 acres across two infill blocks adjacent to a Washington Metro station

Program: A set of mixed-use buildings that incorporate existing historic buildings and facades

Designing walkable urban density is a key goal for New Urbanists, and this is often challenging when working in built-out suburban environments. Though there is a great need to retrofit isolated and unsustainable suburban spaces, existing conditions, space constraints, zoning restrictions and long approval processes are often especially key challenges when working in existing suburban communities.

Clarendon Center, designed by Torti Gallas and Partners, is a strong example of the positive results that can be achieved in this context. The two-block project is located adjacent to a Washington Metro station and incorporates 244 residential units, 181,000 square feet of office space and a grocery store. Jurors noted that this diverse array of uses works with the Art Deco styling to anchor a dense, mixed-use suburban center that fully leverages its position as a transit-oriented development. Extensive community involvement throughout the planning and design process helped build local support for the project and that is attractive to neighbors.

Jurors also appreciated the long-term planning process that enabled this level of density and urbanity in a former low-density suburban area. Clarendon Center is the outcome of a strategic planning process at stations along the Rosslyn-Balston corridor that greatly intensified permitted density close to transit stations while retaining adjacent residential neighborhoods as low-density areas.

The project site features a number of low-rise buildings, some with historic significance from the Clarendon area’s initial commercial development in the 1930s. Following a historic preservation scoping report and plan, one building and two sets of block facades were selected for preservation. The preserved facades were disassembled, stored, cleaned, and eventually reassembled into the new buildings.

Responding to the Deco tradition prevalent in on-site historic buildings and the surrounding neighborhood, Torti Gallas and Partners developed a design language that draws heavily from this tradition. This styling reinforces the pedestrian-scale orientation of the suburban center and helps define intimate public gathering space around the project. In particular, the site’s dominant building steps back from the area’s main intersection to frame a crescent-shaped plaza with an outdoor restaurant and public art, which is also clearly visible from the public streets converging on the site.

In addition to its proximity to the Washington Metro, the project is also close to Capital Bikeshare stations, a car sharing facility, and multiple bus lines. The design encourages alternative transportation through streetscaping that emphasizes pedestrian-scale features and residential parking that is located underground, despite constraints of existing on-site buildings and the need to build around Metro infrastructure. Bicycle parking is located both on the sidewalk and on each level in the underground parking garage. The completion of the project also enhances the streetscape connecting the Metro station to an adjacent existing urban retail center.

Juror Vivian Fei Tsen observed that Clarendon Center clearly demonstrates the mixed-use, transit-oriented development called for by the Charter. Through extensive community involvement, sensitive design, and attention to detail, Torti Gallas and Partners created an effective center of dense urban activity at a key transit node in a growing suburb.

Read more at this project's website.

Transect Zone(s): T4 general.
Status: Complete
Project or Plan's Scale: Region
Features: Green buildings, Live/work, Mixed uses, Rail/fixed guideway transit, Transit oriented development.
LEED-ND Certification: Silver
Land area (in acres): 2
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Residential types: Mid-rise/loft.
Project team designers: Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc.
Project team developers: N/A

Previous site status: Redevelopment

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -