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Animals, Brewers And Farmers Can Fill Vacant Office Space With New Arlington Zoning Change

Office towers in Arlington, Virginia, a 37M SF market with a 24.6% vacancy rate.

Arlington, Virginia, has millions of square feet of empty offices, and now building owners have a new way to quickly convert their vacant spaces into a wide range of uses. 

Zoning changes approved Saturday by the Arlington County Board would allow by-right conversions to several types of uses, including animal boarding facilities, urban farms, colleges and universities, breweries and distilleries, and artisan workshops, ARLnow reports

For farms, craft beverage facilities and artisan workshops, the zoning change would require tenants to maintain a storefront to sell goods to walk-in customers. Animal boarding facilities would require 24-hour supervision by humans. 

Converting vacant office space to these types of uses previously required going through approval processes that a county report described as "overly cumbersome." Business advocates pushed for the changes to help make office owners more amenable to new uses, and to allow entrepreneurs to more quickly open spaces for businesses that will increase activity in the county's commercial districts. 

Arlington County has 37M SF of office space, and 24.6% of it was vacant as of the end of December, according to CBRE. The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor has a 24% vacancy rate, with a total inventory of 23M SF across 116 buildings. National Landing has 12.5M SF of office across 43 buildings, and its vacancy rate was 25.4%.

“In the wake of record high commercial vacancy, timely change is needed," Arlington Chamber of Commerce CEO Kate Bates said in a letter to the board, ARLnow reported. "It is imperative that the County focuses on long-term solutions for new business models, both through increased adaptability for new uses and expedited timeframes for approval of these new uses.”