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Thread: Northern Vrginia

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Land of Confusion

    Northern virginia

    Northern Virginia, as in the DC metro area, has always fascinated me as a planner. Few places in America have been as rapidly urbanized over the last twenty years or so. Everthing I have read about the problem of urban sprawl seems to point to northern Va. as a textbook example. As someone who has never been there, I'm curious as to what planners working there have to say about it.

    Basically I'd be interested in hearing about everything from what a planner's role is in such an environment to what's cool and sucks about living there.

    P.S. I hate posting "teach me" threads but I couldn't resist the urge for this one .

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Moderator note:
    This seems just a bit more Cities and Places-y, so I'm moving the thread there.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Philadelphia, PA
    Northern Virginia, and for that matter, all of Metropolitan DC, present tremendous case studies in nearly all aspects of land use and transportation planning. Northern VA is home to Tysons Corner, the nation's premiere Edge City; Loudoun County, the fastest growing county in the country; Alexandria, with its lively, walkable Old Town; Reston (Robert E. Simon -the developer's - 'ton'), one of the country's only planned "new towns," upon which countless gated condominium developments with man-made lakes are now based; and the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor in Arlington, perhaps the nation's premiere example of effective Transit-Oriented Development.

    And that's just Virginia! Maryland is home to New-Urbanist Kentlands and King Farm; new towns in Montgomery Village and Columbia; Greenbelt, one of the only depression-era planned suburbs to be built; thriving TODs in Downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring; Montgomery County, with the most progressive planning of any suburban county; and Prince George's County, with the largest concentration of middle and upper-income African Americans.

    Then of course there's DC, a study of a huge low-rise downtown; blighted areas, gentrification; wealth, glitz, dynamism, and energy.

    I'm getting off topic. Northern Virginia is too varied to be defined by any one area. From the exurban sprawl of Stafford to the estates along Georgetown Pike, it's a huge, interesting place, with 2 million people and counting. It's also very expensive. Parts of it do suck, and parts of it are great.

    (Portland, OR is often perceived as 'planners' mecca...if that be the case then the Washington DC region deserves a close second.)

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
    Mar 2002
    Well said ChevyChaseDC. I'm a planner in NoVa and yes in some ways its a very interesting place to live, in other ways you wonder why on earth you even try to be a planner here. Va is a Dillons Rule state and the rest of the state seems suck in the 50's (bar parts of the tidewater area from that). NIMBYs have untold powers here, they look at the TOD in Arlington and balk never mind they are just a couple of metro stops down. Transportation is a nightmare-it takes 30 min to go just about anywhere on a good day. I live inside the beltway and avoid going outside it to sprawl land at just about any cost, but on the same token you have folks outside the beltway that wont go inside or into the City for any reason. Its an area of contradictions but I enjoy it. Though yes being a planner is not always an easy task here.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  5. #5
    Perfect description of the DC area, ChevyChaseDC. Northern VA is one of my favorite places because you dont have the miles of blight surrounding DC like you find surrounding Manhattan; most of the area is very new and modern looking with a lot of well-preserved colonial architecture, like in Old Town.

    For such a new money and heavily transplanted area, there seems to be a lot of local pride for NOVA. The only thing I am not too pleased with is the Washington Post's obsession with painting the DC area as the most exclusive and wealthy place in the world. Hardly a days go by that the Post doesnt use the word "affluent" in its articles about their suburbia. Meanwhile, you can find areas of the nation's worst poverty in their jurisdiction, and pockets of extremely high crime. They should not forget that at least 65% of DC proper falls into this category.

    Anyways, NOVA is great!

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