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Crystal City Gateway Breaks Ground

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This triangular piece of property where Crystal Drive veers off Jefferson Davis Highway will be the location of the new southern gateway for Crystal City.
Michael Pope
This triangular piece of property where Crystal Drive veers off Jefferson Davis Highway will be the location of the new southern gateway for Crystal City.

There's no place like Crystal City. Envisioned in the '60s and '70s as a city of the future, the Arlington neighborhood has underground walkways connecting bleak concrete buildings set in a grid designed to facilitate automobiles rather than pedestrians.

"Crystal City was very much reflective of the kind of you know space age, you know we're all going to live on space stations, our environments are going to be entirely controlled and then we go into these individual pods," says Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman.

It's an indoor environment of offices and hotels, sealed off from the street. In other words the complete opposite of what county leaders are trying to encourage these days - a mixed-use urban environment with retail and residential.

"It embodies some of the best, but also some of the hubris that went with a lot of that era," Zimmerman says. "I do think that we are a little more humble now."

That humility will be represented in the new southern gateway -- a $300,000 project that is funded by the Crystal City Business Improvement District. "So we are going to see 28 feathery type trees that are tall along with light poles that are LED poles and they go up in various diagonals," says BID president Angela Fox.

It's part of a lager effort to replace the concrete neo-brutalism with modern glass and steel. In the next 40 years, the county plans to double the population in Crystal City and increase density by 60 percent.

"It has always been a phenomenally convenient and well-located place to be, and now it is also developing quite an interesting soul," says Fox. The southern gateway will be finished by Thanksgiving. County leaders are also planning a northern gateway and a Metro gateway, both of which are slated to be finished before the end of the year.

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