Rosslyn Placemaking Plan
How does a submarket prepare for the expected addition of workers and residents when one of its biggest mixed-use projects is completed in a few years? You make it a fun place to walk around. BID president Mary-Claire Burick, snapped yesterday, says some of the organization’s “placemaking” plans for 17 blocks of Rosslyn includes simple items like new benches and planters, but others are fancier like high-tech streetlights, outdoor lounge areas and phone charging stations on wheels.
Rosslyn already has the highest foot traffic (40,000 workers and 11,000 residents) and density (10M SF of office) in Arlington. Placemaking efforts like the streetscape elements plan will prepare it for the completion of Central Place-–350 residential units in 2017, a 570k SF office tower that will house Corporate Executive Board’s 1,400 employees, and 45k SF of retail. The project also includes a 17k SF public plaza and observation deck, which will draw more people to the submarket, says Mary-Claire. But if Rosslyn isn't a fun place to walk around, then the buzz won’t last long.
BID urban design director Lucia Vasak De Cordre is leading the charge. (The photo behind her is of Rosslyn in the 1930s.) When the BID decided to take on Rosslyn’s street atmosphere, Lucia called up her NYC-based industrial designer friend for help. (His projects include NYC’s Bryant Park and Chelsea’s meatpacking district.) He used the Rosslyn skyline for inspiration and introduced the BID to cutting-edge urban technology and design. The proposed streetlights will be custom designed and have the potential to use solar power, create ambient light that changes color, charge cellphones and cars, and bring WiFi to Rosslyn. Yep, all in a streetlight. (The county has always used historic streetlights, so this is considered a significant change.)
A price tag on all of this is not yet known but Lucia says most of the items aren’t that much more expensive than traditional streetscape products. So the BID, with the blessing of its major property owner members, will soon roll out prototypes of some of the features to see how they’re received in the community. One of the elements already in use is this mobile solar phone charging station invented during Occupy Wall Street. The BID is also using mobile information carts that its hoping will help welcome more tourists. It is also waiting for county approval for “parklettes” or small seating areas around Rosslyn. If all goes well, placemaking efforts will start by early spring.