From the Director: Consider Creative Uses for Commercial Spaces

February 3, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill


In my column last month, I introduced that our team is looking at a new approach to economic development as we face down a record-high office vacancy rate and a myriad of other headwinds affecting the market. I’ve shared how we need to come up with innovative new ways of doing things and need to be nimble to react quickly to changes in the market. At its January meeting, the Arlington County Board took an important step forward in recognizing that flexibility and innovation by approving several new zoning changes that will allow for new uses in commercial space — an initiative we’re referring to as the Commercial Market Resiliency Initiative (CMRI).

The initiative broadens the types of businesses that are allowed to locate in office buildings within Arlington’s commercial corridors. We piloted this initiative last year when the Board enacted changes to the County’s zoning regulations to include micro-fulfillment centers as an allowable use in an office building. Now, that effort has expanded to allow for several other uses, including maker spaces, microbreweries and distilleries, urban agriculture, animal boarding and the expanded use of office space for colleges and universities. These are all types of businesses in demand in our area and we have additional potential commercial market uses in the pipeline that the Board will consider in the coming months. 

Commercial Market Resiliency gives AED a new tool to chip away at our record-high office vacancy rate. But even more than that, as we move forward in this post-pandemic era and office tenants are trying to determine an in-office vs. hybrid environment, we want to create places in which people want to be. Got a pandemic puppy? Fluffy could be right next door at doggy daycare while you’re at work. Need some produce for dinner? The new urban agriculture business downstairs is the perfect place to pick up microgreens. These are all types of businesses that are already seeing success in other areas of Arlington; we want the flexibility to allow them to succeed in our commercial corridors as well. 

This is just one way we’re evolving our strategy for economic growth and prosperity to address the challenges of today. We’re also focusing on making strategic investments in economic development to support priority programs and projects. And we’re working closely with our partners across the Arlington to enable economic growth in every corner of the county. 

Please take a moment to learn more about the County's Commercial Market Resiliency program.


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