Letter from the Publisher
The Hottest Ticket in Town
Crystal City used to be the Rodney Dangerfield of Arlington’s commercial zones. At the turn of the 20th century, when it was known as Jackson City, the area was an infamous red-light district featuring seedy saloons, betting parlors and brothels. In the 1960s, as it evolved into a government office enclave, it was renamed after a chandelier in the then-brand-new Crystal House apartment building. But the new name proved to be ironic. Derided for its drab buildings, an odd underground mall and a profound lack of charm, Crystal City was far from fancy and didn’t get much respect.
Well, people aren’t laughing anymore. With the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 and the heady investments that are being made (to the tune of $12 billion), the district now known as National Landing is the hottest ticket in town. New restaurants, shops, parks, and apartment and office buildings are emerging at a rapid clip as the area is literally transforming before our eyes. Some of the bigger structural changes (like lowering Richmond Highway to grade and transforming it into an urban boulevard) will take years, but when these projects are completed, the place we once knew will be unrecognizable. Our story “Reinventing Crystal City” by Tamara Lytle explores the exciting changes that are underway, new developments on the horizon and the conditions that are in place to make this area one of the most sought-after in the region. The bad news? Gentrification and the continued decimation of market-rate affordable housing are also coming to bear.
Speaking of housing, if you ask most local real estate agents how things are going, they will likely tell you the market is down. We’ve been hearing that for a few months now, so we reviewed the data in our expanded real estate guide (see page 118). Although housing prices continue to rise, the rate of growth slowed from a three-year average of 6% (2019 to 2021) to 3.5% (2021 to 2022). Average days on market, which fluctuated dramatically the past few years, declined by a modest 2.4% (2021 to 2022). The most dramatic change, from our perspective, was the 22% drop in the number of homes sold (2021 to 2022). To put actual numbers to it, 1,434 fewer homes changed hands in 2022 compared with the year prior. We keep hearing inventory is tight and the numbers support it. (It’s worth noting that we’re not residential real estate analysts. We are merely sharing basic observations of the data.)
Shifting gears, we’re all aware by now that our area is susceptible to flash floods and stormwater damage. (If this is news to you, please read our March/April 2020 cover story.) While my family has been lucky to maintain a dry basement during these events, our yard has at times turned into a swamp. So, like any enthusiastic DIYer, I turned to Google and YouTube for help and stumbled upon a kind of garden bed that mitigates standing water. It’s called a hügelbed or hügelkultur (hügel is German for “mound”). In brief, you dig a bed or trench; fill it with logs, branches or other plant debris; cover it with reconditioned soil; add water-loving plants (preferably native—we went with inkberry holly); and, voila, you’ll have a giant, attractive sponge in your backyard to suck up stormwater. For more ideas and inspiration, please read our story on rain gardens by Amy Brecount White. You will find it on p. 88 in this issue.
Enjoy our Home & Real Estate issue! Contact me with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send your letters to the editor to email@example.com. Have a great spring.
Greg Hamilton, Publisher