Potomac Yard lay abandoned through more than ten years of unsuccessful efforts to achieve an approved plan for the former railroad switching yard. Cunningham | Quill Architects spearheaded an interactive community design process, and led a broad, interdisciplinary team in developing a master planning process to achieve a new common vision for Potomac Yard. After twenty community outreach meetings held over sixteen months, the team gained consensus, a new master plan, and unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and City Council.
The new infill plan creates five compact, mixed-use and pedestrian-focused neighborhoods with a town center focused on transit stops. A connected open space system links a network of smaller neighborhood and new larger city-wide parks throughout the plan, which locates residents within a 5-minute walk of any major park. Informed by the historic street and grid patterns of the nearby Old Town and Del Ray neighborhoods of Alexandria, the street and block pattern provides neighborhood-serving retail and a major town center at the north end of the site. Higher density commercial and residential uses are located near existing and potential transit stops, while taller buildings are placed along major street corridors and within the town center. The approved plan included the creation of a regulating plan and urban design guidelines (form-based code) to shape future development and codify the design directions and agreements reached during the community process. Nearly half of the plan is reserved for open space, including a park that runs the entire three-mile length of Potomac Yard. Varied street trees, “pocket parks,” and welcoming sidewalks link the landscape and town plan through pedestrian activity.