How Crystal City is becoming a tech hub - Technical.ly DC

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Dec. 3, 2014 9:41 am

How Crystal City is becoming a tech hub

We took a tour of the polished Arlington neighborhood, and here's what we found.

Angela Fox helped spruce up Crystal City years before the Crystal Tech Fund launched here.

(Photo by Lalita Clozel)

Angela Fox wants more millenials in Crystal City. And she knows how to get them.

On a chilly Thursday, the head of the Crystal City Business Improvement District enumerated all the yuppie activities that have popped up here along with hip restaurants like José Andrès’ Jaleo, Top Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery and the second location of Capitol Hill institution We The Pizza. You’ve got your Blues and Brews Wednesdays, free lunchtime zumba, a farmer’s market and so on.

The number one draw, of course, is the generous amounts of capital flowing from Crystal City cheerleader Paul Singh’s Disruption Corporation, and relatively cheap space leased by Vornado Realty Trust.

  • Singh launched the $50 million Cystal Tech Fund in April (it received a $10 million investment from the realtor). Last month, the fund began constructions to double its office space.
  • Eastern Foundry, an incubator for small federal contractors, is set to launch in Crystal City this month.
  • WeWork, the nationwide coworking organization, is partnering with Vornado to convert 158,000 square feet of offices into its first residential workspace, slated to open late next year.
  • TechShop, the membership-based studio with various tools for making IRL things, opened its capital-area location here in April.
  • The Iron Yard, a nationwide coding school, will install its D.C.-area branch in the new Disruption Corporation space.

“It does feel like sort of an overnight success,” acknowledged Fox. But in reality, it took years of brunt work. Fox ferociously beautified the landscape, which despite its buildings from what she calls the “brutal” era, is as walkable as a beach boardwalk.

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“We took that concrete and turned it into canvas,” she said.

The streets are interspersed with 212 pieces of art; the underground mall tunnels are adorned with 150 artsy photographs; the courtyard overlooked by a humongous Lockheed Martin office building has its own piano.

Here’s another reason to  move to Crystal City, one which you haven’t necessarily thought about, but that makes Fox proud. “We’re the only neighborhood in the world that has an airport that we can walk to,” she said. (Well, kinda.)

It does make for a nice view of landing planes from the Crystal Tech Fund bubble.

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