With the uncertainty of the impacts of COVID-19 on the office market, Arlington County is considering new administrative guidance with regard to the process of converting office space to alternative uses. Given the prevalence of remote work, the future of office has become murkier than ever. Owners and developers are looking for creative solutions for the use of space, and these include converting existing office buildings to residential.
Unlike some of its neighboring jurisdictions, Arlington County currently has no guiding policy for addressing use flexibility. However, on October 13, 2020, the County held a Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) meeting to discuss the need for a planning framework to address the current and upcoming changes in planned or previously approved office uses.
Based on Arlington County's presentation at the LRPC meeting, the purpose of this new administrative guidance is to "provide consistently applied administrative guidance on key areas of consideration when reviewing office conversion proposals." This will take into account the requested office conversation's potential long-term impact on Arlington's mixed-use neighborhoods and whether the requested office conversion is a product of "short-term market fluctuations" or, instead, a result of a long-term systemic shift that has fundamentally changed the need for or feasibility of the office use.
The community engagement and review process for this new administrative guidance is ongoing, and, if implemented, this guidance would be used as a framework during staff review and community engagement, and to inform the Arlington County manager's recommendation to the Arlington County Board for proposed office conversions.
This new administrative guidance not only helps to streamline the office use conversion process, but would also provide developers with increased flexibility when they are considering office conversions.