Arlington Community Facilities Study A Resource AND FACILITIES PLAN FOR OUR FUTURE
Our population is expected to grow from 216,700 to 283,000 people by 2040.
Those are big numbers. Especially when you consider that we are limited to just 26 square miles. A growing population and workforce means increased demands for public services, community facilities and open space.
The Community Facilities Study is an opportunity for us to take a step back and look at the big picture.
This means studying how we can maximize our resources and facilities over the next 5, 10 and 20 years. The Study is a collaborative effort between the County, Arlington Public Schools and the broader community.
Our 23-person Study Committee and more than 250 members of our Resident Forum have worked since January 2015 to evaluate County and School resources, prioritize challenges and draft recommendations.
1. Strengthening community dialogues
Arlington has a long history of citizen-led land use planning, however civic engagement efforts still do not reach all segments of the population. Particularly hard-to-engage groups include millennials, seniors, non-English speaking populations, low-income workers and business owners.
We need to rethink how we communicate and engage the whole community in transparent planning.
2. Sustaining Arlington's economic model
Arlington has a well-diversified tax base. We enjoy a 50/50 split between commercial and residential real estate taxes - which means the burden to pay for public services is evenly split. We compare favorably to other jurisdictions in this area. However, the local office market is changing. A shrinking federal presence, shifts in the way businesses use office space and competitiveness in the region affects these changes.
We need to strategically react to downturns in the office market, because it directly affects revenues. We are currently experiencing historically high vacancy rates which result in $34 million in lost annual tax revenue. Without solving this issue, the tax burden will shift to residential property.
3. Land - Arlington's scarcest resource
The County and Public Schools combined own 2.2 square miles for all schools, parks, police and fire stations and more. We are already experiencing increased demands for competing priorities and as we continue to grow, this gap will get larger. For example, we anticipate seeing 7,800 additional students enroll over the next 10 years.
We need to carefully consider solutions such as vertical growth, shared uses and public/private partnerships.
4. Planning for change
Arlington is a well-recognized model for growth planning along transit corridors. This has guided significant change over the last several decades. However, our forecasted population, demographic and employment changes will affect public service delivery and facility needs.
We need to think about the needs of Baby Boomers, ages 51-69 today, they will be leaving the workforce and their retirement may look different than previous generations. Millennials, ages 15-33 today, are our largest population cohort and will be entering the workforce and starting families. To address these shifts, County and Schools need to closely collaborate on innovative solutions to meet future needs.
5. Embracing diversity
Diversity is one of Arlington's greatest strengths, however it has been decreasing in recent years.
We need to plan for neighborhoods, services and amenities for residents at all ages and stages of life. This includes new employees entering the workforce, young families who are just starting out, seniors who wish to securely age in place and hardworking, low-wage employees who deserve opportunities.
With issues at this scale, we all have a stake in the outcome. This affects the schools our kids attend, the parks and community centers we enjoy, even the police and fire facilities we depend on.