Arlington County, Virginia, Seeks to Revitalize Vacant Office Space With New Uses

January 31, 2023

On Jan. 21, 2023, the Arlington County Board amended the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance to allow a set of new uses.

The ordinance amendment will expand the number of permitted uses in commercial/mixed-use zoning districts to include urban colleges and universities, urban agriculture, office and urban agriculture, retail, artisan beverage and artisan workshop uses. The new uses are designed to give commercial property owners additional tools to reposition underused office space.

The board’s recent action is the latest effort in Arlington County’s “Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative,” launched in April 2022 to foster a resilient commercial market base coming out of COVID-19. For most of 2022 and in early 2023, the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative has focused on providing a quicker process for the establishment of commercial uses that are not clearly defined in the Zoning Ordinance. For details and background, please see McGuireWoods’ July 2022 alert, “Arlington, Virginia, Pushes Forward With Commercial Resiliency Strategy.”

Beyond establishing new uses, the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative likely will evolve and address Arlington County planning processes that often inhibit and delay commercial real estate development projects. These initiatives could include: (1) creating omnibus site plan amendments to address outdated site plan conditions for legacy site plans, (2) regularly updating the standard 4.1 site plan conditions, and (3) reviewing how the Zoning Ordinance defines a major site plan amendment/minor site plan amendment/administrative change.

McGuireWoods would be happy to further discuss what the new uses and the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative could mean for repositioning office space in Arlington County.