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Planners: Regional Job Growth Should Focus On 'Activity Centers'

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Planners want funding to focus on regional activity centers like Clarendon in Arlington, Va., with housing, retail and office spaces built around transportation centers.
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Planners want funding to focus on regional activity centers like Clarendon in Arlington, Va., with housing, retail and office spaces built around transportation centers.

Regional planners have mapped out nearly 140 "activity centers" in the D.C. metropolitan area they say should be the focus of future job and population growth.

An activity center is a densely-built housing, office, and retail space located on a major transportation corridor. Many of the 139 dots on the map unanimously approved by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments are located in D.C; many branch out into Maryland and Virginia along existing and future Metro lines.

It's supposed to be a guide for future growth, says Mary Hynes, vice chairman of the council's Region Forward coalition and resident of an activity center.

"I live a block from the Clarendon Metro," Hynes. "The practical effect is I get in my car about once a week. I can walk to grocery stores or I can walk to the dry cleaner. I can walk to my job or take a bus to my job. It s a great quality of life."

While Arlington County is well known for building mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable neighborhoods around Metro stations, other places are catching up. Prince George's County has 15 Metro stations, but some are undeveloped.

"By focusing growth around those Metro stations, we will be able to receive some return on that investment and we will build on an infrastructure that already exists," says Al Dobbins, the county's Deputy Planning Director. "That precludes the need to go out and build even more transportation infrastructure."

The activity centers map was drafted in 2002 and last updated in 2007.

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