From the Director: National Community Planning Month

The American Planning Association has designated October as National Community Planning Month and Arlington has often been recognized as a national model of good planning. This month I am recommending books that have featured Arlington’s planning history – from the planning and construction of the Pentagon, to the Metro system and our transit villages. Our planning culture has evolved, from a place that was largely shaped by outside forces e.g. the military and the Metro Board, to one where we framed and implemented very deliberate plans reflecting community values and preferences. Enjoy and reflect.

Edge City (1991)
By Joel Garreau

First there was downtown; then there were suburbs; then there were malls. Then Americans launched the most sweeping change in 100 years in how they live, work and play, the Edge City. Arlington’s early urban villages were highlighted here as the next revolution of urban development two decades ago. The evolution of major employment centers outside of downtowns was a relatively new development at that time and Garreau, while not the first to recognize it, was the first to name it. While most edge cities were on Interstate highways, Arlington was different and became a national model for transit oriented development.

Transit Villages in the 21st Century (1997)
By Michael Bernick, Robert Burke Cervero and Robert Cevero 

Design tomorrow's transit villages today. Now you can see first-hand how such ground breaking transit villages as Mission Valley station in San Diego and Ballston Station in northern Virginia are setting a new standard in urban development. In Transit Villages in the 21st Century, by Michael S. Bernick and Robert Burke Cervero, you'll see how to design efficient, environmentally friendly transit communities that hug metropolitan rail systems to reduce gridlock and spur growth. It shows you how to handle everything from transportation and real estate development to zoning, site planning and master planning. . .develop pedestrian access, mixed-use environments and diversified housing... create a sense of place'' in these unique communities.

The New Transit Town: Best Practices in Transit-Oriented Development (2004)
Edited by Hank Ditmar and Gloria Ohland

Transit-oriented development (TOD) seeks to maximize access to mass transit and nonmotorized transportation with centrally located rail or bus stations surrounded by relatively high-density commercial and residential development. New Transit Town brings together leading experts in planning, transportation and sustainable design—including Scott Bernstein, Peter Calthorpe, Jim Daisa, Sharon Feigon, Ellen Greenberg, David Hoyt, Dennis Leach and Shelley Poticha—to examine the first generation of TOD projects and derive lessons for the next generation. It offers topic chapters that provide detailed discussion of key issues along with case studies that present an in-depth look at specific projects.

The Great Society Subway (2008)
By Zachary M. Schrag

Using extensive archival research as well as oral history, Schrag argues that the Metro can be understood only in the political context from which it was born: the Great Society liberalism of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. The Metro emerged from a period when Americans believed in public investments suited to the grandeur and dignity of the world's richest nation. The Metro was built not merely to move commuters, but in the words of Lyndon Johnson, to create "a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community." Schrag scrutinizes the project from its earliest days, including general planning, routes, station architecture, funding decisions, land-use impacts and the behavior of Metro riders. The story of the Great Society Subway sheds light on the development of metropolitan Washington, postwar urban policy and the ultimate creation of Arlington’s urban villages.

The Pentagon (2008)
By Steve Vogel

The creation of the Pentagon in seventeen whirlwind months during World War II is one of the great construction feats in American history, involving a tremendous mobilization of manpower, resources and minds. At the center of the story is the tempestuous but courtly Somervell–“dynamite in a Tiffany box,” as he was once described. In July 1941, the Army construction chief sprang the idea of building a single, huge headquarters that could house the entire War Department, then scattered in seventeen buildings around Washington. Somervell ordered drawings produced in one weekend and, despite a firestorm of opposition, broke ground two months later, vowing that the building would be finished in little more than a year. Thousands of workers descended on the site, a raffish Virginia neighborhood known as Hell’s Bottom, while an army of draftsmen churned out designs barely one step ahead of their execution. Seven months later the first Pentagon employees skirted seas of mud to move into the building and went to work even as construction roared around them. The colossal Army headquarters helped recast Washington (and Arlington) from a sleepy southern town into the bustling center of a reluctant empire.

The Greater Commonwealth: Stories about Planning and Places in Virginia 2011-2013 (2013)
By the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association

VAPA just this month published a compilation of case studies of excellence in planning. Featured is The Economics of Human Scale: The Remaking of Shirlington, describing the planning process and economic analysis that went into the creation of the Shirlington we know today.

And last but not least, The American Institute of Certified Planners Annual Symposium: People and Places at the National Building Museum will be held on October 29th. This year the topic is focused on immigration. As federal legislators debate immigration reform, this fall's symposium looks at how immigrants affect the economies and cultures of the cities where they live and work. Hear regional perspectives on a dynamic group of people and their role in places across the United States. For tickets or more information, visit

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