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Streetcars, New Metro Entrance Among Big Changes Coming to Crystal City

by ARLnow.com — July 13, 2010 at 3:37 pm 2,100 8 Comments

Over the weekend, an ugly and outmoded pedestrian bridge over 18th Street in Crystal City was torn down with little fanfare or community objection. The bridge’s fate is symbolic of the changes that will be taking place in Crystal City over the next 40 years.

Tonight the County Board is expected to advertise public hearings on the blandly-named but far-reaching Crystal City Sector Plan 2050.

The plan sets a vision of the new Crystal City that will emerge once dozens of federal agencies and thousands of federal jobs move out as a result of the Base Realignment and Closing Act.

Among the expected changes:

  • A new entrance to the Crystal City Metro Station, to be built at the corner of 18th Street and Crystal Drive (see video below).
  • A Crystal Drive streetcar line that will run to the Potomac Yard shopping center in Alexandria. The line will also connect with the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line in Pentagon City.
  • Removal of a number of older buildings.
  • Realignment of Clark and Bell Streets and pedestrian improvements.
  • Creation of additional green space.
  • Improved streetscapes and public art.
  • Attracting a grocery store and additional residential development, including affordable housing.

The improvements are expected to cost $163 million during the first two phases of the project, from 2011 to 2020. Expected new tax revenues as a result of the improvements are expected to bring in $200 million during that time frame, more than offsetting the costs. The federal government and the state are also expected to chip in with funds for the development.

Since Crystal City is already a dense, urban neighborhood, the plan will likely face little of the public opposition currently dogging the East Falls Church development plan. Some residents of nearby Aurora Highlands have expressed concerns about increased traffic, but so far residents of Crystal City proper seem mostly unaware of the plan.

Another challenge — getting approval from the FAA for constructing new, taller buildings — has been partially accomplished. An FAA feasibility study has green-lit the first phases of the project, pending periodic reviews to see if building heights could interfere with aircraft and ground radar at Reagan National Airport.

We took a walking tour around Crystal City with County Board Vice-Chairman Chris Zimmerman and Crystal City Business Improvement District President Angela Fox to get an idea of what the new Crystal City will look like. Below we highlight the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street. This is the first in a series of videos.

  • Asher

    Having lived in Crystal City I will say these are welcome changes.

  • Y T Karashinski

    I’m happy to see that — Crystal City was a wierd forlorn little awkward place with a Ghost town aspect for far too long.

  • Let’s Be Free

    Golly Gee Willikers! Smart growth again! Condo Chris visions a streetcar going from Crystal City (with a Metro stop) to shopping at Potomac Yards (where the retail has been planned out of existence by the City Council, to be replaced by high-density mixed use development and a new Metro stop!) Yep, smart Chris nails it again!!! Re-elect Chris! Re-elect Chris! Re-elect Chris! Spend needlessly! Spend needlessly! Spend needlessly! Duplicate more and again. Replicate and Duplicate! Having rail every hundred yards, that is way cool!

    • SportsFan

      Wait, so you’re criticizing the County’s longstanding commitment to concentrating development around transit infrastructure, coupled with links to new work and residential destinations, while leveraging developers (whose existing by-right development rights here are among the County’s greatest) for additional benefits to make Crystal City more walkable, livable and navigable for Arlingtonians?

      It seems you live in the wrong County (or should I say “city” since you think Arlington is governed as one.)

  • Godwin’s Law

    Nevermind, arlnow.com–I commend you for deleting that comment in the time it took me to post my previous message. Feel free to delete my response (and this one), and thanks for trying to keep this site above the fray.

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      Just to be clear, unless the post is about World War II, any comments referencing Hitler will be removed before you can say “Gesundheit.”

  • http://blacknell.net/dynamic/ MB

    FWIW, I think anyone interested in what it takes to revitalize an area should give a close look to Angie Fox and the Crystal City BID. What they’ve managed to pull off down there is a nothing short of amazing, considering the shape that Crystal City was in in the late 90s.

    • Mike

      Watch out Crystal City Restaurant. Remember what happened to the Arlington Grill.

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