- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

The Arlington County (Va.) Board will vote tomorrow on a plan to redevelop a portion of Crystal City, an aging neighborhood south of the Pentagon marked by 1960s-era buildings and underground shops and restaurants.
The area's biggest landlord, the Charles E. Smith Cos., wants to build more retail and office space and add sidewalks along Crystal Drive, which runs parallel to Jefferson Davis Highway through the community.
"I think what they're trying to do is give Crystal City a sense of place, to make it more attractive for potential tenants," said Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, a Democrat.
Several of the neighborhood's biggest tenants are planning to move, including the Navy, which is expected to finish shifting 4,200 jobs from Crystal City to Southeast Washington this year.
Also, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is building a new headquarters in Alexandria. Smith sued unsuccessfully to prevent the agency one of its largest tenants in Crystal City from relocating.
"They're repositioning the market to attract a broader range of tenants besides government agencies and contractors," said Brian J. McMullan, a vice president for Staubach Co., a real-estate brokerage in Northern Virginia.
Smith executives declined to comment, but their plan calls for 130,000 square feet of new retail space and 84,034 square feet of new office space. The landlord also wants to turn 24,314 square feet of existing office space into retail space, and it wants to build more sidewalks in the area.
All of the new and redeveloped property would be between 18th and 23rd streets along Crystal Drive, county planners said.
The combined Crystal City-Pentagon City area is home to 12.5 million square feet of office space, according to Delta Associates, a local real-estate research firm. Almost 96 percent of that space is leased.
About 52,600 people work in Crystal and Pentagon cities, and an estimated 15,700 live there, according to the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
Smith began building Crystal City in the 1960s. But now the neighborhood's design particularly its underground shops seem dated at a time when consumers clamor to live and shop in retro, main street-style communities like Reston Town Center, local developers say.
David Kitchens, an architect who is designing Smith's projects on Crystal Drive, said the redeveloped strip will become the neighborhood's "main street."
The new property will incorporate glass to blend in with the surrounding buildings, he said. Smith will focus on recruiting tenants on Crystal Drive like book stores and clothing boutiques, which would not compete with the shops in the nearby underground shopping center.


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