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.”
The Rosslyn Holiday Market Festival is a two-day festival this year, to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11 at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).
“Like Rosslyn, the holiday market has evolved over the years with a focus on creating experiences where people can spend time and have fun with their co-workers, neighbors and community,” Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick said in an e-mail.
The family-friendly event will host a full schedule of holiday themed activities, including live music, crafts, games and photos with Santa. There will also be local vendors at the festival, selling goods, food and beverages.
The festivities will end on Friday night with a bonfire in the middle of the market’s “winter wonderland.”
A complete schedule of events can be found online.
Mary-Claire Burick, a Douglas Park resident, has been named to the top post that the BID. She will lead the BID during the pivotal “Realize Rosslyn” urban planning process, which will help to shape a long-term vision for the community.
Burick, 46, most recently ran a management consulting company. Before that, she spent 20 years managing operations at Rosslyn-based Allbritton Communications, which owns WJLA-TV (ABC 7), NewsChannel 8 and Politico.
Burick replaces Cecilia Cassidy, who retired as executive director earlier this summer after 21 years with the BID and its predecessor, Rosslyn Renaissance.
In a press release (published in full after the jump), the BID said Burick will lead the organization during “an important time in Rosslyn’s history.”
“We are very fortunate to have Mary-Claire Burick at the helm of the new Rosslyn,” said Peter N. Greenwald, president of the Rosslyn BID and senior advisor for Penzance Companies. “She is a strategic leader who knows how to engage key stakeholders in realizing a vision for change.”
Photo courtesy Rosslyn BID
The inaugural “Pups and Pilsners” outdoor beer festival will be held on Sept. 23. The Crystal City Business Improvement District and Washington Wine Academy is stocking the event, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 1405 Crystal Drive, with a beer garden of 10 craft brews and food from Crystal City restaurants.
Entry to the “dog-friendly festival” is free — and bringing Fido is optional. The beer garden will cost you, though. Tickets will be available at washingtonwineacademy.org.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Citing “challenges” posed by the 100 or so food trucks and carts licensed in Arlington, the BID says the county should work to create a “level playing field” between mobile vendors and restaurants. Among the BID’s recommendations are regulating the “location and schedule of food trucks, trash, parking and access to restroom facilities.”
We reported exclusively last week that the BID was in the process of formulating a set of recommended county regulations for food trucks, at least in part to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants against the onslaught of competition from food trucks, which don’t make the same kind of long-term investments in a neighborhood as restaurant owners.
The full press release is below.
The Rosslyn Business Improvement District is collaborating with Arlington County and other County-based BIDs to explore different ways of actively managing mobile food vendors within the community.
Business Improvement Districts across the nation and within the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area are working with municipalities, business communities and other stakeholders to create vibrant hospitality zones and sociable cities, and restaurants and food trucks are part of that mix.
“Our review of this issue is a work in progress,” says BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy. “The goal is a level playing field, an enriched streetscape and a variety of dining experiences, while enabling brick-and-mortar food purveyors as well as food trucks to thrive.”
Over the past few years, the number of food vendors has significantly increased in Arlington, with 100 food trucks currently licensed to do business in Rosslyn, Crystal City, Ballston and other areas throughout Arlington County. Georgetown and other D.C. neighborhoods also have seen dramatic increases.
Food trucks enliven the streets and offer dining options to residents, workers and visitors, and as such can be welcome contributors to communities.
Food trucks, however, present certain challenges.
- Trash left behind by food truck vendors that property owners must pay to have removed
- Pedestrian walkways blocked by food truck lines, creating safety issues
- Limited parking spaces absorbed by food trucks, preventing customers from reaching brick and mortar businesses
- Restrooms within property owners’ buildings being used by food truck vendors and customers
- Health, hygiene and safety concerns
“AED [Arlington Economic Development] staff has started discussions about our retail policies with Arlington’s BIDs and Partnerships, property owners and small businesses, and mobile food vendors,” said Arlington Economic Development’s Director, Terry Holzheimer. “We recognize that any change to the rules and regulations must do three things: accommodate the needs of the mobile food vendors; address the concerns of property owners and businesses; and provide clarity for staff involved in enforcement.”
The BID is coordinating a set of recommendations with other Arlington County BIDs that will be presented to the County within the coming weeks. Based on benchmarking of best practices with other cities across the country, issues covered in the recommendations include location and schedule of food trucks, trash, parking and access to restroom facilities.
For the past 10 years, the Rosslyn BID has worked with Arlington County, local businesses and property owners to revitalize the area and create opportunities for growth. By working collaboratively with Arlington County, the BID seeks to tackle the challenges raised by property owners and tenants by devising a strategic retail plan for Rosslyn.
The Rosslyn BID has established a Retail Task Force to devise strategies to promote strong restaurant and retail development within Rosslyn, recognizing the contribution that food trucks make to the street and dining scene. The Retail Task Force has developed marketing collateral to promote Rosslyn and attract new restaurants and other retailers to the area. Chaired by Wright Sigmund of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, the Retail Task Force is comprised of community members, retailers and property owners.
“New retail opportunities are on the horizon,” says Wright Sigmund. “We have 60,000 square feet of available retail space in Rosslyn, and 44,500 square feet of retail space will be available with the completion of Central Place and 1812 N. Moore Street office towers.”
“We are optimistic that the Rosslyn community can have multiple exciting choices: both food trucks and restaurants,” says Wright Sigmund. “This issue is not unique to Rosslyn, and we welcome continued dialogue on the topic to make it a win-win for all.”
Training Day — U.S. Navy Lt. Christine Flood, an Arlington native, trains Afghan National Army medics on basic nursing skills, infectious disease control and hospital trauma procedures at the Kandahar Regional Medical Hospital on June 5. [U.S. Army]
House Fire in Leeway-Overlee — A fire broke out in the back of a house on the 5500 block of 24th Street N. on Sunday afternoon, possibly due to a lightning strike. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it spread to other parts of the structure.
Streetcar Supporters Meet Tonight — The Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition will meet tonight at Bangkok 54 (2919 Columbia Pike) to discuss “the development impacts of streetcar projects in the Washington-Metropolitan region,” including the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The discussion is being called “If you build it, they will come.” [Alexandria Times]
Crystal City BID Extended — The Crystal City Business Improvement District has been renewed. The BID, which sponsors events and performs other activities designed to boost the image of Crystal City while bringing more visitors to the neighborhood, was approaching the end of its original five-year sunset provision. The County Board voted to renew the BID in perpetuity, with a staff review in five years. The BID is funded by a tax surcharge on businesses within Crystal City. [Sun Gazette]
Military Man Becomes Priest — The Sun Gazette profiles Luke Dundon, one of the three new priests in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Dundon is a Bishop O’Connell and a Naval Academy graduate, as well as an avid marathoner. [Sun Gazette]
Military photo by Sgt. Richard Andrade
The board approved a supplemental commercial property tax in Ballston to pay for the formation of a Ballston Business Improvement District. It did so with the encouragement of many large property owners — like JBG, Shooshan Company and Ballston Common Mall owner Forest City — but over the objections of a few, like the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Nature Conservancy.
“A Business Improvement District for Ballston is the best vehicle for building on Ballston’s already considerable assets and positioning it for the future,” Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said in a statement. “With the success of our BIDs in Crystal City and Rosslyn, we know that this new BID will contribute greatly to the future success of Ballston.”
County staff took a hard line on the issue, recommending that the board reject the request to add 75 taxis to Arlington’s current licensed fleet of 765 cabs. Cab drivers spoke passionately at the board meeting about their difficulty making ends in Arlington, arguing that allowing new cabs would impose an additional hardship.
EnviroCab, which currently operates 50 taxis in the county, and a would-be start-up called GoGreen Cab had hoped to win board approval for new environmentally-friendly taxis. In the end, county staff pointed out that Arlington has a taxi density that rivals New York City and Chicago when the county’s size and population is figured in.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Tim Kelley
This weekend a group of large local property owners will ask the county board to advertise a public hearing on the creation of a Ballston Business Improvement District.
The Ballston BID would be responsible for marketing Ballston to potential businesses, residents and visitors. It is necessary, property owners say, to keep Ballston competitive with other fast-growing commercial office markets in the District and in Northern Virginia. (Such as Tyson’s Corner, which is a few years away from becoming Metro-accessible.)
“The common view is that Ballston is a ‘good’ place but, it is not yet a ‘great’ community — a goal all urban mixed-use communities need to achieve in order to remain competitive, attractive and sustainable,” the BID’s boosters wrote in a proposed business plan.
Organizers say the BID would be similar in function to the Crystal City BID, which has been very active in beautifying the streets, working to attract new businesses and organizing events meant to showcase various desirable neighborhood characteristics.
Ballston BID supporters propose spending $186,000 on events, $205,000 on marketing and branding, and $300,000 on signage, including banners, a “gateway” and navigation aides. The BID would also create a new “fully interactive website.”
A large part of the BID’s mission will be to “enhance and sustain Ballston’s image as a premier live-work-play community.”
A common complaint about Ballston is a lack of reasons to stay past 5:00 p.m. on weekdays or to visit on weekends. As such, the BID would take steps to promote the neighborhood as “a place where visitors and employees will stay longer and enjoy the BID’s after-work and weekend energy.”
If you live or work in Rosslyn, you might have noticed something different on the sidewalks. The Rosslyn Business Improvement District recently finished installing 30 Big Belly solar trash compactors and 12 Big Belly recycling units around the neighborhood, in an effort to create “a more eco-friendly urban district.”
It works like this: Using only solar power (even in the shade), the receptacles compact trash so efficiently that each holds about 5 times as much refuse as a normal garbage can. That means it can save 4 out of every 5 collection trips, for an 80 percent fuel savings.
And not only does the Big Belly compactor save fuel, it also saves money at a time when the county is cutting back on the frequency of trash collection along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor due to budget constraints. Plus, the devices can potentially save money on pest control by keeping rodents out of the trash.
All those advantages don’t come cheap, however. Each Big Belly compactor costs between $3,195 and $3,999, according to an Associated Press article. That means the BID’s acquisitions likely cost upwards of $100,000.
“One year ago, the Rosslyn BID was in the forefront when we added the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor’s first permanent recycling bins to county sidewalks,” Rosslyn BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy said. “This takes that commitment one step further, helping reduce trash pickups, which save energy and money.”
County Board Chairman Jay Fisette welcomed the BID’s commitment.
“The County applauds the Rosslyn BID for proving that it is possible to leverage technology to achieve cost savings and improve services,” Fisette said.
Photo via Rosslyn BID.