With all the attention given to hip DC locales like 14th Street and H Street, it is easy to overlook the goings-on in the burgeoning corridors of nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs.
However, last week’s announcement that Capitol Bikeshare would be expanding to Columbia Pike was the latest indication that the northern Virginia corridor is transforming.
Over the past few years, a 3.5 mile run of Columbia Pike has been slowly transforming from a neglected corridoe into an active, varied avenue with public spaces, multi-modal transportation options and new retail, all largely the fruits of a years-long Smart Growth planning process initiated by Arlington County.
The most discussed and most potentially transformative facet of the plan is a streetcar line, which would connect Columbia Pike to Arlington’s Metro centers. Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), said that they have applied for a $72 million grant through the Federal Transportation Administration’s Small Starts program to help fund the $250 million project. The rest of the funding may come from state and county sources. Karantonis hopes the streetcar to be up and running by 2017.
“When we have a streetcar running, it will change everything,” he said. “If you open a business here, it’s not easy to say ‘we’re off Metro, you have to take the bus.’ Being connected is extremely important.”
A rendering of streetcars on Columbia Pike. Courtesy of the Arlington County Goverment.
Bikeshare is another step towards that kind of connection. The ten stalls that will go up this summer will add another mode of transportation to the currently auto-centric boulevard. Though the Pike can be a bit frightening to bicycle on, “bike boulevards” will be built on parallel streets, said Karantosis. He saw users picking up bikes the day that the first two stations were installed.
In addition to transportation options, a number of destinations have been popping along the Pike. Phase 1 of Penrose Square, a development with an open, public square at 2503 Columbia Pike, was just completed last fall. The public square will be the first open civic area on the Pike, and is outfitted with outdoor seating areas, gardens, fountains and sculptures. CPRO is planning on organizing music and arts-related events there every third Thursday, starting in May. Several neighborhood-serving retailers have opened up around there as well, including a yoga studio, a yogurt shop, a spa and a number of restaurants.
To get inspiration for how Columbia Pike could evolve, Karantonis spends plenty of time walking around DC neighborhoods, and hopes that one day Columbia Pike will emulate the excitement of a place like the H Street Corridor, where every new restaurant opening generates buzz and a certain crowd.
“I very much think that Columbia Pike has the potential to [generate that excitement] and have that audience,” said Karantonis.
This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/will_columbia_pike_be_novas_h_street_corridor/6885
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