A decade ago, the picture for Crystal City looked bleak.
Despite its proximity to D.C. and National Airport, Crystal City was not seen as a particularly desirable place to live, work or go out. It was most commonly associated with blocky office buildings and an underground shopping center that was a useful passageway in bad weather but a somewhat sad place to be on a nice day. On top of all that, its aging office buildings would soon start emptying due to DoD offices moving out as part of BRAC.
It was in that context that the Crystal City Business Improvement District was born.
“When the Crystal City BID was formed in 2006, many aspects of the neighborhood had already started to change, the perception, however, had not,” said Crystal City BID president and CEO Angela Fox.
While there’s undoubtedly still room for improvement, Crystal City has come a long way in the 10 years since the BID’s founding. At its annual meeting this week local business and government leaders detailed some of the ways the BID has helped Crystal City achieve a newfound vitality.
For one, the BID’s events and arts initiatives — everything from 5K Fridays to beer and wine gardens to Artomatic to fashion shows to Synetic Theater — have helped to made Crystal City an increasingly popular place to run, bike, eat, drink and otherwise spend time in.
“We host literally hundreds of events each year — from 5Ks every Friday in April, to fun sipping and tasting events throughout September, weekly farmers markets, art markets and world-class theater,” Fox said. “We’ve brought hundreds of thousands of people to the area each year. We have shown that if you create a place that people chose willingly to spend their time, the businesses, residents and investment will follow.”
(Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser and frequently advertises events on our site.)
There’s also behind-the-scenes work, helping with the marketing of Crystal City as a business destination. Recently, trendy restaurants and bars like Taylor Gourmet, Good Stuff Eatery and Highline RxR have opened, with the encouragement of the BID and local property owners.
Customers of such places include both long-time residents and workers and relative newcomers, many of whom work in Crystal City’s burgeoning tech and innovation scene. High-tech membership-based workshop TechShop, incubators 1776 and Eastern Foundry, co-working company WeWork and its residential living experiment WeLive all have set up shop in Crystal City within the past few years. In deciding to locate in Crystal City, many such companies cite what they view as an upward trajectory for the neighborhood.
There’s plenty still to come for Crystal City, said Fox.
“We envision Crystal City to be not just a place for tech and innovative companies to locate but also a place where new ideas, concepts, technologies and strategies can be actively tested and brought to market,” Fox continued, “a true innovative laboratory, as well as an awesome place to live, work, play and stay.”