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2K jobs lost an opportunity for a 'new' Crystal City

Monday - 10/10/2011, 2:05pm  ET

Adam Tuss,

CRYSTAL CITY, Va. -- Most communities wouldn't see the loss of close to 2,000 jobs as an opportunity.

But Crystal City in Arlington, sandwiched between the Pentagon and Reagan National Airport, is going through a rebirth -- this after about 1,800 jobs were moved out of the area due to the military's base realignment and closure process.

"Crystal City itself will be transformed with new buildings, some which are coming forward right now," says Arlington Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. "It'll create a better atmosphere for people."

That means sidewalk cafes, ground level retail shops, bike lanes and even plans for a streetcar to help further the redevelopment of the area.

"We don't want blank walls on the street. Those turn out to be places people don't actually want to walk, even if there is a sidewalk," says Zimmerman. "We want (people) to feel safe, and part of that is other human beings being around."

He wants "permeability" with area stores and restaurants, he says, even if customers don't go inside.

"The fact that I can see in and people can see out creates the environment that is attractive to me," Zimmerman says.

Arlington County planners have had some time to get ready for this redevelopment. Six years after BRAC was announced in 2005, some of the designs and concepts for a "new" Crystal City are already happening.

But much like other changing areas such as Tysons Corner, White Flint or H Street in Northeast, what happens in the next few years could make Crystal City great, or just another place on the map.

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