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Form-Based Codes for Economic Revitalization: Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia

This is a good example of:

Focusing on economic redevelopment with form based codes


Throughout the US, cities are adopting form-based codes as an antidote to suburban sprawl and disjointed neighborhoods associated with conventional zoning.  Form-based codes encourage place-making and economic development through dense comingled commercial and residential land use and pedestrian-friendly streets.   Attractive, walkable communities with a sense of place are generally found only in historic neighborhoods.  These desirable “main street” characteristics are almost impossible to build under conventional zoning regulations.  Traditional zoning ordinances separate land by use, which can contribute to economic decline and harm the environment through encouraging car dependency.   Newer form-based codes are a form of municipal ordinance designed to guide development by dictating physical form rather than use.

In 2003, Arlington Virginia adopted a form-based code to create “South Arlington’s Main Street,” and spur economic development with attractive buildings, walkable neighborhoods, and inviting public spaces.   The county’s goal is to attract revitalization by creating redevelopment options that increase economic value in ways not possible through conventional zoning.  Arlington’s Columbia Pike Form-Based Code is an overlay on the zoning ordinance designed to standardize and promote development along the Columbia Pike corridor.

To develop code requirements and design goals, Arlington County held a four-day design charrette for neighbors, business owners, developers, and property owners.  Over 700 community members participated in the consultant-led charrette.  During the charrette, participants were presented with options for the Pike’s future and invited to provide ideas and solutions.  Participants sketched ideas, met in small groups, and developed consensus around design concepts for the Pike.

Key Quote:

The County Board resolved that the new Columbia Pike Form Based Code should ”encourage mixed-use, infill development adjacent to Columbia Pike to promote walkability and use of the future transit” (Arlington County Board, 2008).

Project Location :

Columbia Pike in Arlington, Virginia

Development Context:

Inner Ring Suburb


Under Construction


Arlington County, The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization

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