Finding a community near an airport and other transit was a top priority for Tonya Hinch and her husband, Mike Nuss, when they were planning a relocation to the Washington area from Manhattan in March.
The couple, in their 50s, settled on Crystal City. From their apartment, Reagan National Airport is one Metro stop away.
Nuss, a manufacturing executive, flies weekly for his work. She takes Amtrak to New York every fifth week, and flies to Colorado periodically.
“We can be at the [airport] kiosk in 11 minutes,” said Hinch, who works for the Aspen Institute. “The Crystal Drive urban setting has been terrific.”
For Teresa Guzik, 24, living in Crystal City means having a quick drive to work in Alexandria.
Since starting her first job after graduation from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Guzik, who grew up in Ohio, said she feels comfortable in the space she shares with a roommate she found through a family connection. “I like that it’s safe and convenient,” Guzik said.
Located just west of the airport with views of the Potomac River and Washington, 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 lifestyle is based largely around apartment living with at least a dozen rental complexes in the area along with two condominium buildings.
Developer Robert Smith planned the first apartment building in the 1960s, naming it Crystal House for the crystal chandelier in the lobby. Subsequent buildings also used the word “crystal” in their names, and so the area became Crystal City.
Reinventing itself: Crystal City has been going through a metamorphosis since Congress passed the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005 (BRAC), which authorized the Defense Department to reorganize its military base structure. As a result, Crystal City lost defense tenants leasing three million square feet of space. Moreover, it saw the departure of 13,000 defense and military jobs, which represented a nearly one-third of its total workforce.
Sometimes one door closes, and another opens. That’s what officials hope will happen in Crystal City. In the wake of BRAC, Arlington County created a task force that envisioned a new future for Crystal City. The Arlington County Board formed the Crystal City Planning Task Force and the Crystal City Business Improvement District.
The question was: “How do you take what you have and transform it into something different,” said Angela Fox, president and CEO of the Crystal City BID. The goal has been to “transform the conception people have of Crystal City,” Fox added.
The Crystal City BID, funded by a tax on commercial property owners, has attempted to inject energy and excitement into Crystal City. The BID organizes a variety of activities ranging from outdoor wine and beer festivals to yoga classes in the Water Park. One of the most popular events has been the “Sip and Salsa” outdoor wine festival that drew 5,000 participants with wine from area restaurants and wine shops.
“There’s always something interesting going on,” Hinch said.
Living there: In the past 12 months, 59 properties sold in the Crystal City area, according to Katie Loughney, a real estate agent with Keller Williams. The highest priced property was a $1.25 million four-bedroom, three-bathroom, two-half-bath Craftsman-style home with 3,907 square feet. The lowest priced properties were studio condominiums for $199,900 each.
Currently, there are 17 listings on the market, ranging from a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, two-level penthouse with 2,875 square feet for $2.78 million to a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 669-square-foot condominium for $319,000.
Water park and theater: Crystal City has a little bit of everything as well as lots of restaurants and hotels. One popular attraction is the Crystal City Water Park, where water cascades down steps and pours through a series of openings, creating a relaxing setting. Restaurants abound along 23rd Street South where big name and lesser-known establishments stand side by side.
More than 4,600 hotel rooms dot the landscape while the Synetic Theater, started by Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili, Georgian artists who moved to the United States in the 1990s, is home to four to five major stage productions each year.
In the Crystal City Shops, in the original underground corridors that opened in September 1976, you can buy most things you need as well as browse in the Gallery Underground, an Arlington Artists Alliance effort.
Local farmers and bakers bring fruits and vegetables, flowers, plants and herbs, farm-raised eggs, meats and baked goods to the farmers market Tuesday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m. April through November on Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th streets.
For supermarket grocery shopping, Harris Teeter has a store at the south end of Crystal City and one just to the west in Pentagon City.
Transit: The Crystal City Metro station is on the Blue and Yellow lines. Arlington Transit buses, including the 43 and 92 routes, also serve Crystal City. Virginia Railway Express brings government workers and others to Crystal City in the morning, and returns them to parts south after 4 in the afternoon.
Schools: Oak Ridge Elementary, Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High.
Crime: During the past 12 months, according to the Arlington County police, there were four assaults, eight robberies and eight burglaries in Crystal City.
Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.