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Church Street Vision

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History of the Church Street Vision Plan

In July 1999 the Vienna Town Council adopted an ordinance to enhance the appearance and economic vitality of businesses in the historic Church Street commercial corridor that introduced an innovative concept in commercial development - an incentive based development program called the Church Street Vision Plan - to preserve the unique character of what was once Vienna's main street.

As part of the 1996 Church Street Revitalization Project, a new Pedestrian Commercial Zone was created for the project area from Lawyers Road to Mill Street to set the stage for the development of a pedestrian-friendly area attractive to both businesses and shoppers.

Under the Vision Plan, property owners in the Pedestrian Commercial Zone are encouraged to renovate and develop properties in accordance with adopted guidelines that reflect a main street urban architecture reminiscent of the small town American streetscape of the late 19th century.  In exchange, owners may receive additional building square footage, reduction in parking requirements and an expedited review process.

The plan, which is entirely voluntary on the part of property owners, has been created to achieve improvements on Church Street without the imposition of additional architectural requirements or the restrictions of an official historic district.

Phase I: Streetscape
The first phase of the visioning process included the adoption of a Streetscape Design for Church Street in 1996.  As a result, the Town implemented brick sidewalks and street crossings, cutouts for flowers and plantings and relocated utilities to one side of the street with underground service drops.

Phase II: Rezoning
This phase consisted of rezoning Church Street to create a pedestrian-friendly area and to assist in preventing unwanted development.  This change provided the Town with more control over what kinds of redevelopment could occur in the C1B Zone.

Phase III: The Vision
The Town developed the Church Street Vision Plan to improve the appearance and vitality of Church Street, which included addressing land use issues, signage, floor area ratio (FAR) and developing program incentives for builders.  The Plan also included incentives for Vienna including landscaping and open space requirements, sign design guidelines and site circulation and access.

Why is the Vision needed?
Well before the adoption of the ordinance in 1999, the Town recognized the increase in major commercial and high-rise development occurring around Vienna (namely Tysons Corner) and concern began to rise over the commercial vitality of the community.  Even then, much of Vienna's commercial areas were mostly developed, so focus shifted to the revitalization of existing areas.  

The Plan was developed in an effort to redefine the Town's historic Church Street and breathe new life into the corridor.  The visioning process was led by a Vision Group that consisted of two elected officials, three appointed officials and four citizens including an architect, business owner, public relations specialist and president of a citizen association.  The Plan assists in reestablishing the Church Street commercial corridor as a Town center and encourages a viable commercial mix while preserving Vienna's small town character.

The Plan brings economic benefits including increased businesses along Church Street, increased opportunity for special events, and with the larger FAR, business owners can potentially receive additional income from building.  In addition, it will create a more inviting Church Street which brings the potential to attract more, and a greater variety, of businesses to Vienna.