The densest clusters of these young adults stretch along the Metro line and in Crystal City and Pentagon City, said D’Huyvetter, likening those areas to the District’s core, where many Arlington residents work and socialize.
“They’re typically near Metro, in walkable locations,” he said. “You can hop on Metro in Clarendon and be in downtown D.C. in 20 minutes.”
Arlington has built its popularity with young adults by providing a less gritty alternative to the District — sort of D.C. Light. It has many big-city amenities, such as convenient public transportation and enough restaurants, bars and movie theaters to justifiably claim a night life. But the apartment stock is mostly newer and larger than what’s available for the price in the District.
“I’m from the suburbs,” said Samantha Bullock, 26, who grew up in Fairfax and moved to Arlington in 2009 after graduating from college in Lynchburg. “D.C. isn’t really my thing. It has no parking, and too many people everywhere. But in Arlington, there’s enough young people, great restaurants and great night life. There’s always something to do.”
Census statistics show the Metro corridor that is home to so many young adults in Arlington is noticeably less diverse than the District and the rest of the region. Near the Court House station, two in three residents are white. Near the Clarendon station, eight in 10 are.
Comedian Remy Munasifi’s viral YouTube video, “Arlington: The Rap,” poked fun at Arlington’s young would-be hipsters, skewering the Starbucks-on-every-corner phenomenon, guys in brown flip-flops and the reluctance of Arlingtonians to board Metro’s Green Line.
Some residents say they rarely venture into the District. On a weekend afternoon, the Clarendon and Courthouse neighborhoods bustle with young adults heading in and out of restaurants, walking dogs, jogging or heading home carrying grocery bags from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Whitney Bossin, 28, and Ryan Burns, 29, ended up in Arlington when they moved to the area from New York this spring and couldn’t find an apartment in their price range in the District.
“It’s kind of cute,” Bossin said of Arlington as she took her pug, Charlie, for a stroll. “It’s the suburbs, but it’s not too removed.”
Lisa Sturtevant, deputy director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, said Arlington clearly benefits from the inclination of people to remain in a city or suburb rather than face a long commute.
Sturtevant said she notices young couples pushing baby strollers around Clarendon, a sight she rarely saw a few years ago. She has heard of apartment companies contemplating turning their buildings’ party rooms into playrooms for children and residents building additions onto small homes and duplexes.
But she isn’t sure that will continue. “There’s a sense that people have decided to grow families in urban environments in a way they haven’t before,” she conceded. “But the lure of suburbs is strong culturally. When new construction picks up in the suburbs and housing bounces back, they may move” farther out.
Some residents, however, see Arlington as a place where they can settle in for the long term.
Adam Miller, 26, a clinical psychology student at George Mason, has lived for two years in a Ballston condo with his partner. They each have cars that they drive to jobs outside the Beltway.
Although their careers may lead them to leave the area in the future, Miller and his partner have discussed settling down in Arlington. “If we come back and raise a family, it will be in Arlington. The neighborhoods are safe. There’s lots of community involvement. And the schools are awesome.”
For now, he said, they are enjoying living in-between in Arlington.
“Arlington is a compromise between living in D.C. and way out in the suburbs,” he said. “It’s still got that big-city feel, but it’s small enough to feel connected to the neighborhoods around you.”