I'm leaning closer just building my own Linux distro designed for x86 since I can test it all from VirtualBox. Also, when building Linux, can I use gcc on any existing Linux/Cygwin installation to build an arm version of it by exporting the ARCH variable to "arm" and setting the correct config?
You will need a toolchain (an ARM cross compiler and C runtime libraries), you can get it from linaro: http://www.linaro.org/downloads/ source of nice tools & stuff for ARM development. You'll need to have the arm compiler in path, ARCH variable set and also CROSS_COMPILE having with the prefix of your toolchain. There are couple of slides about cross compiling the kernel here: http://free-electrons.com/doc/training/embedded-linux/slides.pdf
And I'd recommend getting a Linux instead of Cygwin on your workstation for Linux system building, in practice it's very convinient (but I think not a must).
NOTE: I didn't write your entire name because I kept spelling it wrong lol
;] I chosen nickname after Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish writer (and Nobel prize laureate in literature ;]).