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

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.

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