Wednesday, April 17, 2013

innovative approches needed to support Rosslyn retail

Tonight's Radnor / Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association meeting grappled with the challenges of supporting small, retail businesses in Rosslyn.  A poster-image of the problem is the above, empty, ground-floor retail space in Rosslyn's Turnberry Tower.  That space has been vacant since Turnberry Tower opened in December, 2009.  It was included in the site plan as a community benefit.

Another underutilized Rosslyn space is the Bennett Park Apartments' art atrium.  Little has happened in that space since it opened in 2008.  Several residents suggested that this space would be a good location for a restaurant.  The thriving restaurants Cafe Asia, Piola Pizza, Red Hot and Blue, and Rays the Third are nearby on Wilson Blvd.  RAFOM discussed the possibilities for local planning innovation to transform Bennett Park's community benefit into financial support for Artisphere in return for being allowed to transform the underutilized art atrium into a restaurant.

Retail establishments need active streets and a conglomeration of retail businesses.  Residents spoke of tight car parking in Rosslyn as an obstacle to retail.  A good residential/business mix with shared use of parking spaces can help to make best use of parking possibilities. Metro improvements, walkable streets, and plenty of bike parking also help to support retail.  About 47,000 square feet of retail space will be added with the completion of the Central Park development.  Rosslyn has great potential for being an exciting place to work, play, snooze, and stroll.

Jill Griffin, Arlington County commercial development specialist, maintains a database of Rosslyn businesses.  She counts 98 restaurants currently in Rosslyn.  Residents challenged that figure.  According to residents, most of those restaurants do not offer evening service.  Ms. Griffin pointed out the importance not just of restaurants, but also supportive services such as day care services and educational services.  She noted the need for more workers skilled in science, technology, engineering, and math.  She also spoke about BizLaunch, an Arlington County program to support small businesses.

Rich Doud, President of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, explained that country permitting processes cause delays in opening businesses.  He also stated that a policy requiring retail in every commercial building makes no sense.  Retail needs to concentrated, Mr. Doud affirmed.

Other items from the RAFOM meeting:
  • the Rosslyn Plaza development remains in site plan review committee
  • the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update is continuing and should be finished this summer
  • the community policing team provided a crime report.  Despite some sensational crime stories in popular news sources, overall crime levels are about normal
  • RAFOM will once again sponsor applications for the Arlington County tree canopy fund.  Successful applications get free trees, professionally planted.   Information and application forms are available online.  You can contact Steve Campbell (stevecampbell "at" verizon dot net) with any questions.
  • Participate in shaping the future by filling out the Rosslyn community survey.  As a bonus, you could win some fine prizes.
The next RAFOM meeting will be its annual meeting.  It will be on June 11 at Prospect House's Top of the Town. 

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