In Wake of BRAC, Crystal City Has Transformed into an Innovation District

In Wake of BRAC, Crystal City Has Transformed into an Innovation District

The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID), created in the wake of the 2005 BRAC round, is marking its 10-year anniversary amid a transformation that has turned the Northern Virginia neighborhood from what had been seen as just a daytime destination for government employees into a vibrant commercial and retail district catering to entrepreneurs and younger workers.

The BID was formed to help the neighborhood recover from the loss of 17,000 DOD workers forced to move out of leased office space as a result of recommendations approved by the BRAC Commission. The idea was to “build momentum toward building a new Crystal City,” Angela Fox, president and chief executive officer of the BID, told Patch.

The BID helped spur hundreds of annual events, including farmers markets and theater performances. “The fabric has changed with new art, better connected transit, a more business-friendly economic climate and a focus on expanding the incredible basis of infrastructure,” Fox said.

One striking change is the support structure for tech startups that Crystal City has attracted, including WeWork co-working space, seed fund incubator 1776, and Tech Shop, which helps entrepreneurs build marketable prototypes.

“This is not the Crystal City people once knew,” Mitchell Schear, president of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, told the New York Times.

The efforts of the BID, Arlington County and Vornado, the dominant property owner and landlord in Crystal City, have helped establish a sense of place in the neighborhood. Vornado has brought in a variety of restaurants along Crystal Drive to attract millennials. One sign of Crystal City’s revitalization — Good Stuff Eatery, a chain restaurant focused on fresh ingredients, draws more customers during dinner than lunch.

With each project, the neighborhood improves, Fox said. “Now I hear millennials and people of all ages saying Crystal City is so cool.”


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