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Columbia Pike Braces For Revitalization

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Arlington County board member Chris Zimmerman points to the area of Columbia Pike where the streetcar line would go.
Jonathan Wilson
Arlington County board member Chris Zimmerman points to the area of Columbia Pike where the streetcar line would go.

Waiting for a bus near the intersection with South Monroe Street, John Alderton says he can't wait for the first streetcar to make its way up Columbia Pike. As a child, he remembers riding the old streetcars in Northwest D.C. "I like streetcars,” says Alderton. “I think they are faster. They're safe."

That's not a view everybody along the pike shares. A few blocks west, at the Columbia Pike Thrift Store, July Burlbaugh isn't so sure.

"I've got to cross it,” she says. “And it's going to really put a crimp in traffic I think."

She's not buying all the talk about creating an urban-friendly transit-corridor.

"How can you put something in the middle of the street and not expected it to mess things up?"

Arlington County leaders have been planning for revitalization for more than 25 years, although recent developments have offered a preview of what that might look like: high-end condominium buildings with ground-level retail.

That's fine by Roland Revis, who comes to Miguel's Barbershop each week for a haircut -- even though he says he knows the barbershop may have to find a new home.

"It wouldn't be any problem because all the clients that they have,” says Revis. “You know what I mean. There wouldn't be any problem at all.'

Back at the thrift store, Linda Blythe says she thinks small businesses could have a future along the new Columbia Pike, as long as they can afford it.

"I don't know that we wouldn't have businesses like this. It would just be a different venue, and much higher rent." This weekend, Arlington County will host a series of public meetings at the Sheraton National Hotel for people to share their concerns about the future of Columbia Pike.

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