(Updated at 12 a.m.) The Crystal City Business Improvement District is set to absorb parts of Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, and could be eying a name change.
The Arlington County Board approved a 76% increase to the land included within the BID’s boundaries during its meeting this past Saturday, September 21, after the BID gained the required support from commercial property owners.
The new area encompasses parts of Arlington’s Potomac Yard and Pentagon City neighborhoods, including Amazon’s planned permanent HQ2.
But that’s not the only change afoot in Amazon’s new backyard.
“We anticipate that this Board may be soon asked to consider whether a different name should be applied to the BID to reflect the expanded area,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey noted from the dais this weekend.
“Given the combined area’s size and scale as a major downtown district — the largest walkable downtown in Virginia — the BID believes an umbrella term to represent the unified area is critical to elevating the district and appropriately identifying the organization and its focus,” said the BID’s President and Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel in a statement.
“Exploration of this umbrella term has been underway since the launch of the BID’s strategic planning process in April 2018,” she added. “While the BID sees value in adopting National Landing as an overarching name for the district to complement the individual neighborhood names of Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, we continue to engage the community and area stakeholders on this topic.”
The name “National Landing” first first emerged with Amazon’s announcement it was heading to Arlington. The name — conjured up by a combination of Arlington and Alexandria economic development authorities, property owner (and Amazon landlord) JBG Smith, and the BID itself — was used to refer to the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard area in and around the company’s headquarters.
Thus far the name has been used informally — without public hearings, and input from community groups — but its potential use as the BID’s new identity could solidify its emergence in the pantheon of local place names.
Recently, ARLnow learned via state records that JBG Smith created a “National Landing Business Owners Association Inc.” to take advantage of a new law allowing customers buy beverages and wander as they shop in malls.
A BID document included in a staff report to the Board this weekend said the renaming was its “highest priority” after expanding its boundaries:
Once the Area-Wide BID is approved by the County Board, a full rebranding of the district will be the highest priority initiative for implementation as per the Strategic Plan. In April 2019, the Crystal City Business Improvement District selected a branding consultant and kicked off the initiative with an Area-Wide Branding Committee. The goal of the effort is to create a new visual identity — including brand story, logos, signage, and place branding. The branding initiative will focus on both the BID organization and the area-wide name as well as the neighborhoods of Crystal City, Pentagon City, and the Potomac Yard-Arlington. The goal is to launch the new identity as early as July 2019.
Renaming a BID would require the Board’s approval, as well as the BID to work with the County Manager’s Office to hold public engagement sessions to gather residents opinions, according to Dorsey. During the public engagement process, residents will have the opportunity to suggest their own names, as well.
Board member Libby Garvey said during the Saturday meeting that she has been assured there will be a “lot of outreach” about the potential name change, which originally sparked some degree of controversy and mockery after being included without warning in the Amazon announcement.
At the time, Board Member Katie Cristol told DCist that it can be “a little unwieldy” to refer to Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard when referring to the HQ2 site.
“That’s not a great brand,” she said. “It’s a bit of a mouthful.”
She added that having a single name of the region, like National Landing, “signals the connectivity that’s going to transcend neighborhoods and even jurisdictional boundaries through better transportation and better public places.”
When it came to the Crystal City BID’s expansion this weekend, Dorsey said overall that expanded territory would help the organization, “to ensure the area becomes more livable, a vibrant urban center, a really true downtown that is unified throughout.”
“We are grateful to the Arlington County Board and local property owners for their support of our longstanding goal of uniting these three vibrant communities,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President and Executive Director of the BID, in a statement. “This area is in the midst of a remarkable transformation with billions of dollars committed in public and private investment. Through this BID expansion, we will be much better positioned to ensure our downtown’s growth is accomplished in ways that are sustainable and enhance the area’s diversity and livability.”
The BID will be hosting an open house to celebrate the expansion and “learn more about how this strategic move affects our area’s priorities and brand story.” The event is planned to be held at 251 18th Street S. on Tuesday, October 8 from 6-7:30 p.m.
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