The County’s Green Space Shell Game

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How to “add” more , while residents simultaneously lose access to green space.


It was a curious thing when the Public Spaces Master Plan suggested adding in an average of 3 acres of parkland per year to keep up with the pace of a growing population, only to see that zero money was allocated on any of the County’s budget to do so. 

When lots the size of a quarter acre sell for over a million dollars in Arlington, how can the County “add” more parks with no money?

The answer is simple. In name only, the County can boast about increasing the number of parkland but actuality residents will have significantly less access to green space while the population grows. 

Here’s how Arlington’s green space shell game works

Recently, Arlington County approved two developments where the green space shell game is in place, Amazon and the Crystal House in Pentagon City. This is an area already busting at the seams with new growth and no new substantive access to green space.

Arlington’s “new parks” at Crystal House

On the Crystal House apartment property you’ll find beautiful mature trees surrounded by grass and benches well used by residents of Crystal House and neighbors every day.

But more approximately half of all of its existing green space and the mature trees will be paved over with new buildings. Meanwhile the number of residential units will increase by nearly double, adding in 798 more residential to the existing 828 units. 

Neighbors and residents living in the buildings with no backyards will have significantly fewer parks/green space.

While the satellite image of the green space is clear, the County staff presentation of the open space before and after images are fuzzy. 

Here is a clearer image of the approximate green space which will be eliminated with new buildings. 

The numbers correlate to the images below of the approved lost green spaces

But funny enough, the County gets to boast that Arlington has more parks than before and is meeting their parkland acquisition goals! Why?

Because Arlington added “two new parks” existing and slightly expanded medians have now been transferred to the County as “new parks.”

See the image below of the “new parks” and note that most of the other greenery surrounding them will be gone.  

As the population of Crystal House doubles, and access to green space decreases dramatically, be rest assured with the press release from Arlington which will say that residents now have more access to parks, than it did before! 

The new Amazon Park

When it comes to the park called “MetPark” near the new Amazon HQ2 building, beyond what was approved in the original site plan, there will be no substantive increase in access to green space for the thousands of new Amazon employees, existing residents and neighbors. Instead, because there is a new public easement on the existing green space, Arlington County can tout that they have more parks than before without any substantive increase for residents to access green space whatsoever. Nice little trick, isn’t it?

The Shell Game Continues

Arlington’s promise to increase its parkland isn’t a promise to increase green space whatsoever. You won’t find any new green spaces in fact you’ll see fewer green spaces, trees and many, many more people. The new parks are just a name-game. It’s a shell game. Don’t be fooled. 

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