With the announcement recently by online retail giant Amazon that Crystal City will be home to one half of the company’s new second headquarters, some in this Arlington, Va., community are cautiously anticipating what the influx of 25,000 jobs will bring, said longtime resident Christer Ahl.
He said a number of factors, from a lack of green space to more congested roads, are causes for concern. But the area, which about a decade ago dealt with the loss of 13,000 jobs as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005, is poised for a rebound.
“I don’t want Crystal City to turn back into an office park with a few residents sprinkled in,” Ahl said. “In order to avoid that with an influx of retail space due to the Amazon jobs, we’ll need more residents to come.”
Residents say the community is full of attractions — including sightlines of the Mall and the U.S. Capitol — and it’s easy to understand why it was selected.
“I often joke that they’re going to have to carry me out of here feet first because this is my retirement home,” said Carol Fuller, who has lived since 2005 in a 1,772-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium.
“I can lay in bed and look at the Capitol at night,” she said. “This is really prime territory. That’s absolutely the reason I moved here.”
Located minutes from Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, which sprang up during the 1960s as a primarily office and retail community sprinkled with apartments and condominiums, is “literally the center of the universe when you’re talking about the Washington region,” said Gina Tufano, an agent with Pearson Smith Realty.
Tufano said that in recent years, more businesses have registered in the Tysons corridor, a shift from Washington’s hold on the top spot. That positions Crystal City a little closer to the action.
Add to it the fact that Crystal City “has easy public transportation access, and you have a winning recipe,” she said.
“Easy urbanity”: Sandra Borden, who was raised in a military family, said she had moved about 30 times since childhood by the time she discovered Crystal City in the mid-1980s as an adult. Borden said she wasn’t expecting to immediately feel at home but was quickly drawn to her unit in a new condominium building.
“This is my favorite house I’ve lived in,” said Borden, of her 1,325-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. “It just fits my life, and because I’m an original owner, I got to pick my unit that has gorgeous views of D.C. and the Potomac River.”
Tracy Gabriel, executive director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, said potential buyers have historically overlooked the neighborhood and associated it more with office towers than residential units.
That perception, thanks to a lot of education and marketing campaigns, is beginning to change, she added.
“What I’ve heard a lot from residents is that they appreciate the easy urbanity that Crystal City provides. The secret really is out now,” Gabriel said.
As a selling point, Gabriel said that Crystal City is often positioned as part of a broader ecosystem that includes nearby Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.
“When you view it as one cohesive mixed-use downtown, and one of the largest walkable downtowns in the region, with nearly 500 restaurants and retailers in that broader area, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular.”
The 25,000 Amazon jobs will arrive over the course of several years. The initial 400 jobs will have minimal effect on the real estate market, experts say. “They’re certainly important jobs, but in terms of the overall real estate market, it’s only a little drip,” said Jeannette Chapman, a senior research associate at George Mason University who is studying the move.
Living there: Crystal City is a long, narrow strip of land straddling Route 1 and stretching from Interstate 395 and Long Bridge Park south to Four Mile Run. The neighborhood is just west of the airport, with views of the Potomac River and Washington.
In the past 12 months, 75 properties have sold in Crystal City, ranging from a 412-square-foot studio condominium with one bathroom for $240,000 to a 2,817-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo for $1,430,000, said Tufano, the agent with Pearson Smith Realty.
There are two units for sale in Crystal City, a 1,051-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium for $560,000 and a 1,523-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium for $750,000, Tufano said.
Schools: Hoffman-Boston Elementary, Gunston Middle, Wakefield High.
Transit: The neighborhood is served by a number of bus routes operated by Arlington Transit. The Crystal City station on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines and the Virginia Railway Express add to the options for public transportation.
Crime: In the past six months, there were 18 vehicle thefts, eight burglaries, five robberies and one homicide reported in the area that includes Crystal City, according to Arlington County police.