History of the Lee Highway Presidents Breakfasts (LHPB)
and Lee Highway Alliance (LHA)
Good urban planning is proactive, collaborative and visionary. Extensive community conversation and collaboration with residents, local businesses and landowners, and the County staff and policymakers are critical to success. Lee Highway wasn't going to plan itself.
In the fall of 2012, the Waverly Hills Civic Association was upgrading its Neighborhood Conservation Plan, and members were tasked with analyzing boundaries including Lee Highway. They started to question the lack of good planning and met with 35 policymakers and stakeholders - including Planning Commissioners and County Board members, all of whom supported moving forward with a grassroots effort.
Therefore, on February 23, 2013, a group of nine Civic Association Presidents/Members met at the Langston Brown Community Center and began a conversation on Lee Highway from Rosslyn to East Falls Church. The grassroots strategy had four parts - (1) to organize and develop trust through monthly Presidents Breakfasts and a Strategic Partnership with County Planning staff, (2) research and educate to learn about relevant planning topics through educational forums and walking tours, (3) identify activity nodes and a strategic vision for Lee Highway as a Main Street, and (4) establish a formal Lee Highway Task Force that would work with the County to update the General Land Use Plan or GLUP, which had not been updated since the 1960s, and probably also the Zoning Ordinance, to reflect future needs. The members recognized that change will occur, and that developing a vision will help the communities to guide development pressure. Rather than piecemeal, by right development, which was beginning to occur, the group advocated for a vision and a plan that encouraged creative mixed use development with clear benefits to the communities.
In 2015, the LHPB transitioned into the LHA. Civic involvement grew to include all 18 civic associations - 15 active - in the Lee Corridor, many businesses and landowners, and about 1200 stakeholders on the LHA list serve. A total of 25 educational forums were held. A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed to establish Guiding Principles to guide future decisionmaking. The County Planning Staff developed a Briefing Book, containing extensive research and baseline information. Community meetings on the visioning process were held and the County sponsored a charrette/workshop in the fall of 2015, that identified opportunities for improved placemaking and complete streets. 800 stakeholders participated in those meetings to inform the future planning of Arlington's last major unplanned corridor.
Today this partnership has transitioned again. The LHA has become a non-profit organization with support from the County. LHA is preparing to work with County staff and VDOT on a land use planning study, anticipated to commence in the Fall of 2017. This collaborative citizen led, grassroots initiative will continue to develop a vision for the corridor with enhanced walkability and biking, attractive streetscapes and buildings, and greater opportunities for community building through aging in place, conservation of cultural resources, and live work and play activities. 4.6 miles of east west arterial but so much more- neighborhoods and businesses we call 'home.'