Crystal City as Party Central

For 1,000 in Real Estate

Downtown Crystal City, which usually empties out by dark, turned into a mini-Hollywood-style scene Thursday night as Arlington developer Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty held an elaborate party for 1,000 real estate brokers, developers and area planners.

A huge white tent covered a block of Crystal Drive. Inside the tent, disco balls hung from the ceiling and red, yellow, green and blue lights highlighted three stages. On one stage, a full band played tunes like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "We Are Family" as dancers in all-black outfits twirled purple and pink flags. Elsewhere acrobats in tie-dyed leotards and jugglers, clowns and fire-blowing entertainers performed.

Guests sipped red, green and blue martinis and munched on roast beef, shrimp, calamari and Asian-style noodle appetizers. "It's probably the biggest, most spectacular event ever given for a real estate function," said Tom Fulcher, a real estate broker with Julien J. Studley Co. "You've got little gum drops under the glass table tops; guys walking around with ice cream; there's a band on stilts and the acrobats."

Mitchell N. Schear, president of Charles E. Smith, wouldn't say how much the party cost, but those close to the planning of the event said it was in the $400,000 ballpark.

Schear's company was the original developer of Crystal City in the 1960s and 1970s. The area became home to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. When the agency said it was moving out of its 1.9 million square feet of office space, Smith began to try to reinvent Crystal City's image.

It spent $40 million to spiff up -- adding signs, converting one-way streets into two-way streets, improving lighting and adding a variety of restaurants and bars. Smith has landed two major tenants -- the Public Broadcasting Service and the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Service.

One of the partygoers, Sidney Bresler, chief executive of developer Bresler & Reiner Inc., has land near the Southwest waterfront that Schear is going to turn into a major office complex for mortgage giant Fannie Mae. Said Bresler: "If [Schear] can get Fannie Mae to take 2.1 million square feet, he can afford to have this kind of party."

-- Dana Hedgpeth

Mitchell N. Schear's event attracted 1,000.