For those District residents who don’t own cars and don’t like MetroBus, the extent of the Washington region is limited. Sure, you can get to a lot of major attractions via MetroRail, but you’re missing out on a lot too. Take Columbia Pike for example– it has a vibrant, fun “main street” feel to it, but many Washingtonians haven’t been out there (except maybe to catch a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse). Even though there isn’t a Metro station nearby, this area is definitely worth a visit.
History: Columbia Pike has always been a major thoroughfare through Arlington County since it was chartered in 1801. It was originally a streetcar suburb, with a streetcar stop at the intersection of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike and a direct bus connecting to the District. But during the 1940s, the area became much more suburban and car-friendly, with lots of car dealerships and gas stations. This pattern of development continued for the next fifty years.
The important thing to note here is that many of the neighborhoods in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor developed similarly, but they got Metro stations in the 1970s. This led to a surge in land value, which then led to compact development and reinvestment right around those stations. Columbia Pike didn’t get a Metro station, so there was no catalyst for urban development. But the story isn’t over: a streetcar is coming to Columbia Pike in the next decade, which can finally bring the reinvestment that the area has been waiting for.