Cyclists Can Now Test Out Experimental Protected Bike Lanes in Crystal City, Potomac Yard

Bicyclists in Potomac Yard and Crystal City might’ve noticed some funky new protected bike lanes around town — but some of them won’t be sticking around for long.

The lanes popped up this week to coincide with the “National Bike Summit,” a gathering of cycling activists held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

Some of the protected lanes are located along S. Eads Street in Crystal City, near the road’s intersection with 22nd Street S. They’re part of the “BikeRail” product backed by Minneapolis-based firm Dero, and are a bit sturdier than the plastic poles the county has installed along other protected bike lanes.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District says Dero donated the BikeRails for pilot program purposes, and county staff installed them this week. They may not stay in their current locations, but the county plans to keep them a little longer, at least.

Another bike company sponsoring the conference, Bike Fixation, donated some even more unusual looking lanes for cyclists to try out.

The county set up the wave-shaped barriers along a stretch of S. Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, leading up to where the bike conference was held.

Those, however, are merely temporary, according to the League of American Bicyclists (which sponsored the conference). They could be gone as soon as sometime this week.

Photo 1 via @mttrgrs, photos 2 and 3 via @juddlumberjack

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Amazon ‘Felt Welcome’ in Arlington Before Moving In, But Still Plans More Extensive Outreach

When Amazon first started seriously considering Arlington for a new headquarters, the company went so far as to send employees out to local coffee shops and bars to gauge how people around here felt about the tech giant moving in.

The company’s head of worldwide economic development, Holly Sullivan, says Amazon employees were regularly surveying Crystal City locals about the prospect of becoming the neighborhood’s newest, and largest, occupant. And by the time the tech firm was ready to select Arlington for the project, she had full confidence that Amazon would be greeted with open arms.

“We have a lot of that local knowledge now,” Sullivan assured a crowd of hundreds of business executives and government officials at Bisnow’s HQ2-Apalooza event today (Thursday) in Potomac Yard. “Even before we announced our Arlington plans we felt welcome here.”

That sort of confidence in the community’s response was critical to Sullivan and the rest of the company’s executives — after all, when Amazon officials feared that New York City leaders were insufficiently welcoming for the other half of the company’s headquarters, Jeff Bezos’ firm simply pulled the plug.

“We think we could’ve gotten New York done, but at a certain point you have to ask, at what cost?” Sullivan said. “We want to locate in a community that also supports us.”

The company certainly received a warm welcome at Thursday’s event. Billed as a chance for business leaders to learn “how you can benefit” from Amazon’s arrival in Arlington, the high-priced gathering of executives offered a largely rosy picture of how the company might change the D.C. region.

Of course, not everyone around the county is quite so eager to see Amazon move in, and some of the company’s critics made their presence felt at the otherwise chummy event. A handful of protesters with the “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition temporarily disrupted the proceedings, holding signs and chanting “Pay to play is not okay, we want a public hearing today.”

Sullivan joked that she was glad the event “welcomed some of our friends that like to follow me around the country,” but the demonstration was organized by local activists, who have grown frustrated with Amazon’s approach to engaging with the community.

This is now Sullivan’s second appearance in as many weeks at a ticketed event for local business leaders, and some critics (and even county officials) would rather see the company engage directly with the communities that might be most affected by Amazon’s impact on the region’s housing market.

Sullivan argues, however, that the company has indeed already done some of that outreach work and is committed to doing more. For starters, she says the company plans to create a “steering committee,” pulling together Amazon executives, local government officials and education leaders to discuss the future of the new headquarters and its impact on the region.

Considering that the company has yet to outline any plans for aiding affordable housing efforts in the area, or even what its exact plans for construction in Arlington might look like — the company is still waiting on the County Board to approve an incentive package for the the new headquarters to formalize many of its plans — advocates in the region are enthusiastic to hear that the company is ready to come to the table with local leaders.

“Amazon has an opportunity to create a model of a tech community that is inclusive, that’s different than what we’ve seen in Silicon Valley and Seattle,” said Nina Janopaul, the CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

For officials who have long struggled with working across jurisdictional lines, that sort of collaboration could also be quite meaningful, said Stephen Fuller, one of the region’s preeminent economic forecasters.

He argued during the event that Amazon’s promised 25,000 jobs may not put a strain on the region’s housing all on their own, but that the tens of thousands of additional jobs that flood into the area to support Amazon may well challenge the area.

For instance, Fuller’s researchers project that new companies moving into the region to support Amazon could induce demand for as much as 41 million square feet of new office space in the area — for context, Amazon plans to build anywhere from 4 million to 8 million on its own.

“The growth is really coming and we need to take a moment to think about this beyond Amazon,” Fuller said.

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As Amazon Moves In, Crystal City Business Group Works to Expand to Pentagon City, Potomac Yard

Crystal City’s leading business advocacy group is taking its most concrete steps yet to expand and represent Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard as well.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District is hoping to bump out its borders as soon as next year, according to documents submitted to the County Board. The BID plans to spend the next few months working secure the support of businesses in its adjacent neighborhoods, then finalize the change sometime in fiscal year 2020.

The business group, funded via a tax on properties in Crystal City, has been eyeing a potential expansion for months now, and the move took on increased importance once Amazon announced it would be setting up shop across all three South Arlington neighborhoods: the tech giant will have office space in both Crystal City and Pentagon City, and is spurring the creation of a new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard.

The BID has already started to pitch the area to businesses as a cohesive “downtown” for Arlington, and is billing the creation of an “area-wide” BID as a way to “reinforce the complementary nature of these markets” when it comes time to lure new companies and residents to the area.

“In fact, the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard-Arlington area has a total asset value of over $11 billion and represents a powerful economic engine for Arlington County, the region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the BID wrote in its work plan for FY2020, delivered to the Board ahead of its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).

The group’s new proposed borders would expand the BID’s reach down Army Navy Drive until it meets S. Hayes Street, putting major developments like Amazon’s future home near Metropolitan Park and the neighborhood’s Costco and Best Buy under the BID’s umbrella. However, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall would not be included under the BID’s current proposal.

On the Potomac Yard side of the things to the south, the BID would extend its borders down Route 1 until it meets Four Mile Run (and the county’s border with Alexandria). That would pull in the large development that includes Lidl’s American headquarters and a Harris Teeter grocery store.

According to its work plan, the BID plans to spend the second and third quarters of the current fiscal year rallying support from business owners in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. It also plans to move offices later this year, then hire more staff to account for its expanded borders.

The Board will also set the tax rate it imposes on Crystal City businesses to fund the BID as part of its upcoming budget deliberations. The BID is requesting that the tax rate remain stable, and when combined with a 6.8 percent jump in property values in the neighborhood, the group expects to pull in about $2.76 million in revenue this year.

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Two Crystal City Transportation Projects Tied to Amazon Deal Now Set to Win Millions in State Funds

A pair of major Crystal City transportation projects that were key parts of Arlington’s pitch to Amazon are now set to receive millions in state funds.

State transportation planners are recommending that officials send the county $52.9 million to help build a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station, and another $6.6 million for an expansion of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard bus rapid transit system to Pentagon City.

The money is set to flow through Virginia’s “Smart Scale” program, a pot of money managed by Gov. Ralph Northam’s Commonwealth Transportation Board for big-ticket projects around the state. Each year, state planners recommend a series of improvements for funding by weighing various factors like how each one will reduce congestion or spur economic development efforts.

While the funding arrangement isn’t final just yet, the cash could help spur the construction of two of the five transportation improvements Northam’s negotiators promised to the tech giant in striking a deal to bring Amazon’s new headquarters to Crystal City and Pentagon City. A second, southwestern entrance to the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station, a new pedestrian bridge connecting Crystal City to Reagan National Airport and as-yet-undetermined improvements to Route 1 were also part of the incentive package.

However, the company didn’t put forward any cash on its own to afford the changes, leaving the county and the state to sort out the funding details. And the latest recommendations from state officials suggests that they’ll be drawing the bulk of the funding from “Smart Scale” cash, necessarily shrinking the size of the pot of transportation dollars available for the rest of the state.

Notably, the nearly $53 million set aside for the second Metro entrance is substantially less than the $78 million in “Smart Scale” money county officials requested for the project this past summer, back when it was still no sure bet that Amazon would pick Arlington. The project’s total price tag is estimated at $90.7 million.

County leaders have hoped for years now to build an eastern entrance to the station, to be located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S., in order to make it more accessible to commuters and improve connectivity with the nearby Virginia Railway Express station.

Yet Arlington had trouble winning regional transportation funding for the project, in part due to some of the vagaries of the deal struck by state lawmakers to provide dedicated annual funding for the Metro system, but Amazon’s impending arrival seems to have bumped the effort to the front of the line. The project didn’t score especially well on the “Smart Scale” metrics designed to evaluate projects for funding, placing 83rd out of the 433 projects submitted for consideration this year, but it was still included among the 11 projects in the Northern Virginia area set to see more cash this year.

Documents prepared for the CTB don’t lay out where the county will find the remaining $37 million or so for the project. The regional Northern Virginia Transportation Authority previously sent $5 million to account for engineering and design costs, but Arlington officials declined to allocate much cash for the project in an update to its 10-year construction spending plan passed last year. Northam could opt to include more funding for the project in his state budget this year; the county’s proposed deal with Amazon also mentions that officials plan to draw up to $28 million over a 10-year period from tax revenues generated by the new headquarters to afford improvements in the area.

By contrast, the expansion of the dedicated bus lane system, commonly known as the “Transitway,” was already in the works when the Amazon deal came into focus. The “Smart Scale” cash will fund all but about $1.8 million of the project’s estimated cost.

The Transitway currently operates between the Crystal City Metro station and the Braddock Road station in Alexandria, with dedicated bus lanes and stations covering about 4.5 miles in all. The expansion would add another .75 miles to the route, linking the Pentagon City Metro to the Crystal City stop.

With Virginia Tech planning a new campus in Potomac Yard to coincide with Amazon’s arrival, and development in the neighborhood ramping up, the bus service would provide a link between all three areas before a new Metro station opens in the Alexandria neighborhood. The project ranked 10th overall on the “Smart Scale” metrics.

The CTB will spend the next few months finalizing these funding plans, and is set to approve them formally in June.

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Neighborhood Spotlight: Potomac Yard

This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

Update, January 7 at 5:20 p.m.

Although Potomac Yard overlaps Arlington, it is mostly located in Alexandria. We’re revising the video accordingly.

Potomac Yard is full of beautiful new condo buildings and homes. Along with neighborhoods Crystal City and Pentagon City, Potomac Yard is poised to become a site of rapid development and economic growth as part of the National Landing area for Amazon’s HQ2.

Where to Eat in Potomac Yard

Looking for a place to eat? Try Souvlaki Festive Greek for delicious grilled pita wraps, rice bowls and other Mediterranean fare. Rustico serves wood-fired pizza with over 30 beers on tap and a truly massive bottled beer list organized by flavor type. Try Hebir Exotic for tasty Ethiopian food and stop in at Hops Grill for craft beers, burgers, lobster tails and more.

Things to do in Potomac Yard

Potomac Yard Shopping Center is home to shops such as staple retail chains as, Target, Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Petsmart and many more.

Speaking of pets, Potomac Yard is home to Simpson Stadium Dog Park, one of Alexandria’s dog parks where your pet can run and socialize.

Near Target you’ll also find Potomac Yard Park with its playgrounds for toddlers and older children, and a splash park for cooling off on the hottest days of the year.

You can catch a movie at Potomac Yard’s Regal Cinemas or work out at Trident CrossFit.

Daingerfield Island park was the first permanent settlement of the city of Alexandria, and is now a marina where you can watch herons and kingfishers.

Commute

Potomac Yard is currently accessible via the blue and yellow D.C. Metro train lines from the Crystal City and Braddock Road stations. A Potomac Yard Station is in progress, and should open between Ronald Reagan National Airport Station and Braddock Road Station by 2021.

Housing

Potomac Yard is full of new development and newly built homes. Single family homes stay on the market for an average of 44 days with an average sales price of $945,238. Condos stay on the market for an average of 47 days and sell for an average of $491,273.

Potomac Greens is a community of 3 and 4-story townhouses within easy reach of the Potomac River waterfront.

Notch 8 is a luxury apartment building with units ranging from studios to 2-bedrooms. The amenities here include a swimming pool, outdoor living room with fire pit and a fitness center with a personal trainer and group classes.

Verdict

Potomac Yard is already full of new development and great entertainment — and there’s much more on the way with Amazon’s HQ2 location. Potomac Yard might just be your new favorite neighborhood!

If you know anyone who needs help buying or selling a home, contact The Keri Shull Team.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Potomac Yard? Let us know in the comments.

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With Amazon On Board, JBG Smith Prepares to Bet Big on ‘National Landing’

JBG Smith is gearing up to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, arguing that Amazon’s impending arrival could make the “National Landing” area nearly as in-demand as D.C. itself.

In documents delivered to investors last week, the developer revealed its most detailed plans yet for how it expects to work with the tech giant as it moves its 25,000 workers to the county.

Perhaps most notably, JBG revealed for the first time that Amazon will fork over $294 million to buy the company’s “PenPlace” and Metropolitan Park properties in Pentagon City, where it will eventually build new offices. As work on those buildings continue, the company will sign “short-to-medium term” leases at JBG’s buildings at 241 18th Street S. and 1800 S. Bell Street in Crystal City, where JBG is also planning to spend another $15 million to spruce up the properties.

JBG also told its shareholders that Amazon will lease the entirety of a new building planned for 1770 Crystal Drive, which sits at the heart of the developer’s just-approved “Central District” redevelopment project for the entire block. The company expects to spend $80 million redeveloping the building, with the eventual goal of opening it in time for 2020 and making it a more permanent home for Amazon employees.

But those changes represent only the work the developer is planning that’s tied directly to Amazon. By its own estimate, JBG already owns about 71 percent of office buildings in the neighborhood, and it hopes “redeploy the proceeds” of its Amazon windfall “into either new development or income-producing multifamily assets.”

Per the documents, potential projects could include the redevelopment of 1800 S. Bell Street property once Amazon leaves, or the overhaul of some of its other existing Crystal City and Pentagon City properties; 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, 223 23rd Street S., 101 12th Street S., and the RiverHouse Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) are all listed as possibilities.

Essentially, the company is betting that Amazon’s arrival will be a “powerful economic catalyst” and “kick-start the development of a technology ecosystem that has long searched for its footing in the D.C.,” CEO Matt Kelly wrote to shareholders.

“As vacancy in National Landing burns off and technology job growth gains momentum, we expect National Landing to [surpass] Rosslyn as the most valuable Northern Virginia submarket, and approach convergence with Washington, D.C.,” Kelly wrote in a letter to investors.

Those forecasts represent quite the radical change from Crystal City’s previous woes attracting any companies to the area. The departure of federal and military tenants left the neighborhood with a persistently high vacancy rate, shrinking a key tax revenue stream for the county, but officials have long touted Amazon’s impending arrival as a way to solve that problem virtually overnight.

JBG is so bullish on the impending demand in the area that it could very well convert one of its planned apartment redevelopments into more office space instead.

The developer recently began demolition work on a building at 1900 Crystal Drive, space it eventually hoped to transform into two apartment towers with a total of 750 homes between them. JBG plans to start construction by “early 2020,” but notes for investors that “this project could switch to office in the event of a substantial or full building pre-lease.”

The company plans to eventually spend $550 million on that construction and work its other Amazon-related properties, though it expects it will have little trouble affording such expense. Kelly noted in his letter that JBG saw increased demand in the area even before Amazon made its Arlington move official, and has been able to raise rents and property asking prices accordingly.

“We have also seen a dramatic increase in demand from retailers looking to locate in our initial phases of placemaking development,” Kelly wrote. “Since the announcement, we have had a further wave of increased inquiries. We believe that this increase in demand for our holdings in National Landing will continue, and likely amplify, as Amazon grows in the submarket.”

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Following Amazon’s Big Announcement, JBG Smith Sketches Out Plans for New ‘National Landing’

(Updated at 1 p.m.) Amazon’s arrival in Crystal City and Pentagon City seems set to completely transform developments already planned for the area.

The company’s big announcement today (Tuesday) that it would split its planned second headquarters between Arlington and New York City represents a major windfall for JBG Smith, the largest property owner across the newly dubbed “National Landing” — an area including Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. The developer had long sought to fill thousands of square feet of vacant office space in the neighborhoods, much of which will now presumably be occupied by Amazon’s 25,000 workers attached to the project.

But renderings posted online suggest that JBG will also tweak developments already in progress to suit the tech giant’s needs. The new “NationalLanding.com” offers a virtual tour of the area, and promises that the developer “intends to accelerate the planning, entitlement, and development of several projects” to meet Amazon’s arrival in the area — the company expects to occupy anywhere from 4 million to 8 million square feet in office space over the life of the new headquarters.

JBG Smith writes on the site that it currently controls 6.2 million square feet of existing office space in the area, with another 7.4 million of “additional development opportunities in National Landing, excluding Amazon’s proposed land purchase.” In all, the company is planning the following moves in the area, from a press release:

  • Lease approximately 500,000 square feet of existing office space at 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street, and 1770 Crystal Drive.
  • Purchase Pen Place and Met 6, 7, 8 land in JBG SMITH’s Future Development Pipeline with Estimated Potential Development Density of up to 4.1 million square feet. JBG SMITH has the right to time the expected closings of the land parcel sales to facilitate 1,031 exchange opportunities.
  • Engage JBG SMITH as its development partner, property manager, and retail leasing agent.
  • Commence predevelopment and planning of the first office building in 2018, with construction expected to begin in 2019.

The new renderings include a “multimodal transit hub” located near the pedestrian bridge linking Crystal City to Reagan National Airport, which Amazon has volunteered to help build as part of the project. It’s unclear where exactly the hub will be located.

The renderings also center around a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station, an amenity long sought by the county but once seemed out of reach due to funding constraints. JBG Smith is currently working on a redevelopment of the area dubbed “Central District,” and those plans included a controversial proposal to build retail space over the new Metro entrance. New sketches suggest that the developer may push ahead with those plans, now that the construction of the second entrance is assured.

“The public and private sectors are currently investing billions of dollars in the National Landing area to improve infrastructure, expand on entertainment and retail options, enhance public spaces and introduce new/repositioned buildings,” Tracy Gabriel, president and executive director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, wrote in a statement. “We believe that Amazon will help accelerate the transformation underway in Virginia’s largest walkable downtown, further growing and diversifying Crystal City’s economy, bolstering our already strong tech presence and attracting additional companies and investment.”

Also on the way for the area is a helipad, according to the county’s memorandum of understanding with the company.

“Arlington County staff will assist Amazon in its efforts to obtain required County Board, commonwealth and federal approvals for the development, construction, and operation (at the company’s expense)” of the project, according to the memo.

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As Pentagon City Transitway Expansion Gains Steam, County Convenes Open House Tonight

Arlington is gearing up to extend its bus rapid transit system to better connect Crystal City to Pentagon City, and county officials are inviting people to learn more about the project at a meeting tonight (Thursday).

The county is holding an open house to show off details of the planned Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway extension, running from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive).

The Transitway currently operates between the Crystal City Metro station and the Braddock Road station in Alexandria, with dedicated bus lanes and stations covering about 4.5 miles in all. The expansion would add another .75 miles to the route, linking the Pentagon City Metro to the Crystal City stop.

The $27.7 million project is part of ongoing efforts to better connect the two neighborhoods, and the county recently earned millions in regional transportation funding to make it possible. The effort will involve the construction of seven new bus stations by the time it’s wrapped up.

It also includes new dedicated bus lanes set for the following streets, per the county’s website:

  • Crystal Drive from 15th Street S. to 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive (Includes curbside rush hour bus lanes and two stations, one on northbound Crystal Drive at 15th Street S., and one on westbound 12th Street S. at Long Bridge Drive).
  • 12th Street S. from Long Bridge Drive to S. Hayes Street (Includes exclusive bus lanes in the median, mixed traffic lanes, traffic signal upgrades, signage and pavement markings and three stations: east and westbound 12th Street S. at Elm Street, and eastbound 12th Street S. at S. Hayes Street)
  • S. Hayes Street from 12th Street S. to Army Navy Drive (This segment will connect to WMATA’s planned Pentagon City Center bus bays project on Army Navy Drive)

The Crystal Drive segment is currently the farthest along, with transportation planners currently in design discussions for the effort. The county is still in more conceptual discussions about the other two segments.

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With Amazon Looming, Developers Increasingly Link Crystal City to Potomac Yard

Though they may not share the same zip code, Arlington’s Crystal City and Alexandria’s Potomac Yard are bound together in the pursuit for Amazon’s second headquarters — and, win or lose on HQ2, the area’s business community is looking to strengthen those ties in the future.

Four Mile Run may separate the two neighborhoods, but real estate giant JBG Smith controls vast swaths of property in both neighborhoods, helping the company pitch Amazon on the area’s potential. With Potomac Yard becoming a development hub for the city, and Crystal City’s commercial office space emptying out a bit, the combination could be enticing enough to win out over the region’s other offerings.

“They had the largest [space] requirement we’ve seen in economic development, ever,” Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said during Bisnow’s “Future of Alexandria” event today (Thursday). “But there is enough square footage here to absorb that company and their requirement.”

Undeniably, Jeff Bezos’ big decision looms over any discussion of the area’s future. But, as Landrum points out, the same factors that made Crystal City and Potomac Yard attractive to Amazon will surely be enticing to other big companies.

“If we can’t get it, we turn around and ask the next Fortune 100 company about their expansion plans,” Landrum said.

That’s a big part of why business leaders are increasingly keen on unity among the various communities along the Potomac River.

Rob Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, points out this organization has embraced Potomac Yard as it courts new companies, and even started to market Pentagon City in conjunction with those neighborhoods as well.

Though the areas may not be especially connected now, with transit and walkability a constant challenge, Mandle points out that, taken together, the combination of the three neighborhoods represents “the largest downtown in the entire commonwealth.”

He notes that, in terms of sheer size, the trio rivals downtown areas in mid-size cities like Indianapolis or Austin, Texas — and with the area still hurting from its loss of federal tenants, straining county coffers in the process, he’s hoping a more interconnected pitch can make a difference.

“We’re really working to articulate that to the marketplace,” Mandle said. “We see it as this seamless urban corridor between Braddock Road and Pentagon City.”

Robert Vaughn, vice president of development at JBG Smith, noted that such a connection certainly makes sense for his company.

Much of JBG’s property in Potomac Yard is residential, and he sees its “target renter” as being anywhere from 25 to 35 years old, likely working at the Pentagon or for some other government contractor based in Arlington (perhaps even in one of JBG’s commercial properties in Crystal City).

Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has traditionally been the prime area drawing in millenials interested in walkable, transit-oriented communities. That’s why Vaughn expects a similar focus on walkability could help the new combination of Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City become attractive to that very lucrative constituency instead.

“Even though we’re all tied to our phones, we don’t want to just sit and look at our phones in our living rooms all day,” said Bill Dickinson, executive director of brokerage at Rappaport, another large regional developer. “It’s about creating space to get people out there.”

Photo via McCaffrey Interests, Inc.

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Thousands Share Feedback for Crystal City’s “Future Cities Project”

More than a thousand people have given their feedback on how to make Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Arlington a better place — and that’s just online.

Hundreds more have shared their thoughts at close to a dozen on-site engagement activities throughout the area, and the project will continue to gain momentum throughout the summer.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) is now several months into a multidimensional strategic planning process exploring the nature of the greater submarket that includes Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Arlington.

The process, called the Future Cities Project, includes an extensive community outreach effort via Neighborland, a platform that enables the public to engage in an accessible and equitable way both online and in person.

In addition to engaging online via www.futurecitiesproject.org, the Crystal City BID has been staging onsite engagement efforts at busy locations around the area, including Metrorail stations, residential and office lobbies, shopping areas and local events. Over the next two weeks, Crystal City BID staff will pop up at various locations soliciting immediate feedback via the effort’s signature whiteboard.

New questions — which focus on enhancing the quality of life, maximizing inclusivity and adding cultural attractions and destinations — will be posted every few weeks to maximize participation and maintain interest over the course of the next three months.

For a complete and detailed schedule of upcoming dates and locations, please visit the Future Cities Project website. You may also share your feedback online, see what others have shared and vote on ideas that you agree with.

“The public feedback collected from the community through Neighborland will be a key input into our efforts to rethink the strategic priorities for the BID as an organization and the area,” said Crystal City BID Chief Operating Officer, Robert H. Mandle. “What we learn will help drive thinking about the area’s identity and what is most needed to create an integrated and vibrant walkable urban center.”

The Future Cities Project is guided by a Steering Committee drawn from the Crystal City BID’s Board of Directors, civic associations, business and arts groups and major property owners in the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard areas, along with other public and civic sector leaders and officials. Visit www.futurecitiesproject.com to get involved and learn more.

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Former NYC, D.C. Official Hired to Help Support Crystal City ‘Transformation’

Tracy Gabriel, a D.C. urban planning official who formerly was a vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, has been hired as the new president and executive director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

Gabriel joins the BID as Crystal City is poised for a “dynamic transformation.”

Though saddled with a high office vacancy rate following the loss of large government and military tenants, Crystal City is among the leading contenders for Amazon’s second headquarters, known as HQ2.

Even if Amazon goes elsewhere, Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard are set for significant growth — plus $2 billion in private investment and $1.5 billion in public infrastructure projects over the next decade — which will help it become “the largest walkable downtown in Virginia and of similar scale to major U.S. downtowns such as Indianapolis and Austin,” according to a press release (below).

Meanwhile, an expansion of the Crystal City BID to include adjacent Pentagon City is under consideration.

More on Gabriel’s hiring, via a BID press release, after the jump.

The Board of Directors of the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) announces that Tracy Sayegh Gabriel has been hired as the new president and executive director of the organization. She will begin at the BID in August.

A nationally recognized urban planner and city-builder, Gabriel brings 15 years of planning, development, and place-based economic development experience in government and private consultancy in the Washington, D.C. and New York City markets. She is former vice president at the New York City Economic Development Corporation under the Bloomberg Administration overseeing neighborhood transformations and managing large-scale public projects. She is  currently associate director at the District of Columbia Office of Planning, where she has led a design-forward, equity-driven planning practice since 2012 including neighborhood plans and place-making throughout the District and directing Anacostia Waterfront development. Her work has typically focused on mixed-use development and neighborhood revitalization, integrating real estate, infrastructure, and capital planning initiatives.

“Hiring Tracy is a strategic move to continue the exciting momentum underway in Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard – Arlington,” said Glenda MacMullin, Crystal City BID Board Chair and chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Consumer Technology Association. “Now is a pivotal time in our organization’s trajectory. We’re so thankful for the comprehensive, collaborative and strategic work that Rob Mandle and Rich Bradley have been doing, and we believe Tracy will help take the Crystal City BID and our entire area to the next level.”

The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) is now several months into a multidimensional strategic planning process exploring the nature of the greater submarket that includes Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard – Arlington. The process, called the Future Cities Project, has been led by Rich Bradley of The Urban Partnership serving as the BID’s acting executive director, and Rob Mandle, the BID’s chief operating officer. The process has included an extensive community outreach effort, both in person and online, and is guided by a Steering Committee drawn from the BID’s Board of Directors, civic associations, businesses, and arts groups, and major property owners in the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard areas, along with other public and civic sector leaders and officials. The process will result in an Action Agenda to be released this fall that will drive the area towards becoming a more dynamic, urban, and walkable place.

This greater submarket is the largest walkable downtown in Virginia and of similar scale to major U.S. downtowns such as Indianapolis and Austin. With new private investment totaling $2 billion is in the pipeline and another $1.5 billion in public infrastructure projects slated for the next decade, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard are poised for a dynamic transformation which will be supported by the BID’s strategy and leadership.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work with the Board, as well as the County, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders, to support the repositioning of Crystal City. The sheer scale of what’s happening in the Crystal City area right now will have an impact on the entire region,” Tracy Gabriel said. “I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves to work at this important nexus of design, planning, economic development, and revitalization with the great team that’s already in place.”

While vice president at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Gabriel was responsible for high-profile development projects and neighborhood-wide initiatives, including the transformation of Long Island City, now the fastest growing neighborhood in New York City, and the development of Hunter’s Point South, one of the most innovative urban waterfront projects. She also served as a consultant on various real estate, downtown, and revitalization projects at Phillips Preiss Shapiro Associates. Gabriel earned a degree from George Washington University, received her Master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was a Fulbright Scholar in economic development in Damascus, Syria.

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Here’s How to Share Your Thoughts on Crystal City’s Future

The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) wants to hear your thoughts about the future of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

The process, called the Future Cities Project, will engage members of the public on the area’s future. Simultaneously, the Crystal City BID will hold various public meetings throughout the summer at both the Pentagon City and Crystal City Metro stations, residential and office lobbies, shopping spaces and more. The schedule has yet to come out, but the BID will provide update in the coming weeks.

Throughout the process, the project will “consider public space and placemaking efforts, the strategic goals of the organization, and elevating a new identity for the area — all with the goal of transforming these interrelated areas into a lively, walkable urban center,” according to a press release.

The public engagement effort comes as the BID is weighing plans to expand its boundaries to include Pentagon City and the Arlington portion of Potomac Yard, which — should it happen — would necessitate a new name to reference the combined neighborhoods.The effort also comes as Amazon considers Crystal City as a possible destination for its second headquarters.

Photo courtesy Crystal City BID

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Upscale Potomac Yard Apartment Complex Begins Construction

A 360-unit luxury apartment complex has broken ground in Potomac Yard.

The new 12-story building, to be called The Sur, will have 16,000 square feet of retail space and another 25,000 square feet of shared amenities space. Units range from 557 square foot studios to 1,419 square foot three bedroom apartments. High-end features include a dog spa, a rooftop spa and a “party room.”

Situated on the site of the neighborhood’s namesake former major railroad switchyard, The Sur will be across from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s south end.

On-site construction hours on the site at 3400 Potomac Avenue have been approved from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The development was originally approved in 2007, but Courthouse-based developer Erkiletian Development Co. sought minor modifications to the plan this past September. The site plan amendment was ultimately given the greenlight by the Arlington County Board.

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Board to Consider ‘Short Bridge Park’ Name for Potomac Yard Park

The Arlington County Board will debate whether to name a park near Potomac Yard “Short Bridge Park,” after it being known informally as “South Park” for over a decade.

The county’s Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the name for the park between Potomac Ave and U.S. Route 1, along Four Mile Run. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria both own portions of the park.

A county staff report on the naming notes that the park had the informal moniker “South Park” as it is the southernmost park in the Potomac Yard Phased Development Site Plan, which provides a roadmap for development in the area. It was created in October 2000.

The park currently has a publicly accessible playground and a playground exclusively used by a daycare facility, planted shrub/perennial beds, walkways, a large grassy field and a steeply sloped grassy area.

Renovations to the park will improve its connectivity to the Four Mile Run Trail, as well as add facilities like a dog park, an “interpretative plaza,” more pathways, a shade structure and other plazas and a meadow.

In a letter to the Board, Parks and Recreation Commission chair Caroline Haynes said the group supports the plans for the park and its new name, which she said is a “complement to ‘Long Bridge Park‘ both in size and location.”

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Morning Notes

Eastern Foundry Expanding Again — Government contracting startup accelerator Eastern Foundry is expanding once again. The accelerator is taking a 6,175-square-foot space directly below its Crystal City offices and dividing it into four suites “to attract larger companies that want a foothold in the co-working world.” [Washington Business Journal]

JBG’s Big Plans for Crystal City, Potomac Yard — The newly-merged JBG Smith sees an opportunity to transform its holdings in Pentagon City, Crystal City, Potomac Yard and North Old Town Alexandria into “24/7 environments” that “feel more like the [Rosslyn-Ballston] Corridor.” In Crystal City, the company wants to add new amenities. “What we want to do there is add retail amenities and residential to convince people who work there to live and play there,” said an executive. [Bisnow]

Real Estate Market Continues Upward Trajectory — “Year-over-year home sales and average sales prices across Northern Virginia were up slightly in July, leading to a 6.6-percent increase in total sales volume, according to new figures.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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