Arlington planners focused on smart growth and innovation decades ago. Now their plans are paying off, as Arlington attracts new business, new industry and new investment, and gains a national reputation as a place to live, work and play. —Allyson Jacob
The views are similar: planes at Reagan National Airport take off and land with regular rhythm. The Capitol dome and the Washington Monument dominate the skyline. Bikes, buses and cars fill streets lined with up-and-coming restaurants and retail shops. Though they reside in separate corridors—Arlington Economic Development (AED) in the Clarendon Boulevard Court House building and the new offices of Disruption Corporation on Crystal Drive—they represent a vision and a plan for the county.
For a decade or so, Arlington has been considered a great place to live, work and play. American urban studies theorist Richard Florida, writing in Atlantic Cities in 2012 as a follow-up to his 2002 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” named Arlington the most creative class county in the United States, second only to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Florida, a former professor of public policy at George Mason University, currently directs the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is a global research professor at New York University and is the founder of the Creative Class Group.
Popular opinion on Florida’s theories might be cooling, but his research into economic development, and into which elements make a successful urban environment, have consistently pointed to Arlington as a model of what it takes to attract and retain a creative core of residents that support and grow an economy. Arlington has the highest density of 25 to 34 year-olds in the country. All that talent has brought new businesses, startups and venture firms to the area.
Twenty years ago, Arlington was a government town; Rosslyn to Ballston was an “old, deteriorating corridor,” according to Jay Fisette, chairman of the Arlington County Board. Now it’s a destination for cutting-edge industry and venture capital firms.
Fisette is in his fifth term as chairman of the board, and for nearly 17 years, he’s been working to ensure that Arlington is a center for smart growth—a term originating from the Environmental Protection Agency that involves mixed land use, a variety of transportation and housing choices, walkable neighborhoods and encouraging the community to collaborate in decision. The result is a county is labeled “innovative” as well as smart.
“Arlington County was an innovative organization before I got here, in the context of planning land use,” Fisette says. “Smart growth (means) not doing it the cheapest, fastest way, (but being) strategic.”
Innovative initiatives abound in Arlington County: a community energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2050, and a 10-year capital infrastructure plan that includes broadband fiber initiative for public facilities and schools—which now includes leasing broadband lines to the private sector— are just a few. “(You need) courage, creativity and planning,” says Fisette. “Local governments that are good are thinking long term, thinking outside the box, beyond the next profit and loss statement or election.”
A recent example: TandemNSI. The company is a public–private partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, AED and a private venture capital firm, Amplifier Ventures, founded and managed by Jonathan Aberman. TandemNSI launched in February 2014 to “better connect federal research and development labs with a highly curated community of innovators in cyber, data analytics, additive manufacturing [3D printing], robotics and geospatial engineering,” according to Jennifer Ives, former director of innovation and strategic partnerships and current advisor to the company.
TandemNSI helps private companies take advantage of declassified technology to build solutions for national security. “When tech is declassified, the private sector can commercialize,” Ives explains. “The Commonwealth is involved because [declassifying and commercializing tech] helps grow and create a larger job market. How do you leverage the technology? Create new businesses around it.”
Aberman founded TandemNSI out of the Ballston Innovation Initiative, a similar and successful program he funded and piloted in 2013. When he and Ives were looking for a physical location for TandemNSI, Arlington was a natural fit, says Ives. “Arlington has three [national security] agencies—Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)—clustered within two blocks of one another. Arlington is the ‘bullseye.’”
More companies are making bets on Arlington and taking advantage of the smart growth and innovation that Fisette and his predecessors have worked to obtain. Ashburn-native Paul Singh has divided his time between Silicon Valley and the district for most of his adult life, starting, selling and investing in companies. His most recent creation is Disruption Corporation, a research company for the private investment market. One arm of Disruption is the Crystal Tech Fund (CTF), a $50 million venture fund for entrepreneurs that are between seed and Series A funding rounds.
“I went to Bishop O’Connell and Fairfax High School and my memories [of Arlington] are clouded,” Singh laughs. “We would go to Court House or Clarendon and get hammered. Arlington was suits and defense—corporate. That’s what the industry was. Now, tech is the future.”
Companies in the CTF portfolio (six as of press time) can opt to work out of Disruption’s offices if they choose; Singh’s perch on the 10th floor is spacious with room to expand. Part of the reason Singh bet $50 million on Arlington is a local ace in the hole: commercial real estate giant Vornado owns 26 buildings in Crystal City, and Singh likes the idea of working with a single entity.
“Vornado is one of the largest real estate companies in the country,” Singh says. “[I can call and say] ‘Danny Boice from Speek [a CTF company] wants to live close to work.’ One landlord can roll out the red carpet.” But it’s more than convenience. Vornado has invested $10 million in the CTF. (Singh is quick to mention that Vorndao didn’t get special terms.) “They want to build a city. I need to build a city where the importance of tech is outlined. What we do here will vastly influence all the other [industrial] sectors,” he says.
“Tech isn’t a bunch of kids in a corner watching porn,” Singh adds. “It’s entering the mainstream. We’ve never done a good job explaining why tech is important.” With Disruption, Singh plans to change that.
When asked where he will be in five years, Singh’s response echoes the goals stated by Aberman and Ives: “Push[ing] circles of venture capital, high-growth companies and economic development together.” In Arlington.
Arlington County By the Numbers
25.8 square miles
215,000 (Jan 2014 est.)
8,332 per square mile
71.3 percent of adults in Arlington have Bachelor’s degree
Posted by Editorial / Thursday, September 11th, 2014
By Danielle Harvey
When thinking about what investment pieces to buy each season, many people are looking for transitional staples that can be worn with almost anything. Accessories are the best bet for those who want to stay on trend without buying a whole new wardrobe. In seasons past, the oversized bag or statement necklaces were the go-to for fashion fanatics. Some of us are ready for a change so take a cue from the runways and street style experts and invest in the mini bag. Here are three looks for any stylish situation where the mini bag is anything but insignificant.
Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
By Danielle Harvey
Jewelry designer Paige Novick is showcasing her collection of fine jewelry at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland on September 11-12 from 10 a.m-5 p.m. The informal atmosphere is great for browsing the new pieces. Known for her trendy yet timeless designs, she’ll also be featuring her jewelry collection Phyne by Paige Novick. If you’re looking for that special piece or finishing touch for an outfit that you can’t wait to wear, be sure to view her collections before you go.
Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? If that sounds like you, head over to Old Town Alexandria for their 7th Annual Old Town Boutique District Scavenger Hunt on September 18-20. Attendees have the option of pre-registering for the event from September 5-15, which makes the first 200 participants eligible for a Baggu tote bag, printed passport and promotional packet. Stores participating in this event include The Shoe Hive, Hysteria and lou lou Boutique to name a few. Participants in the scavenger hunt also have the opportunity to win prizes and up to $3,500 in gift certificates by completing their passports from visiting each store. Hours vary depending on each retailer, so check out the event website to learn more.
The beauty retailer Bluemercury, Inc. is coming up on 15 years in the business. To celebrate they are offering complimentary makeovers, mini-facials and treatment in-stores and you can visit each of the three locations in Virginia including Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax. Stop by on September 13 from 10 a.m-7 p.m. In addition to hosting the in-store parties, the company is also giving attendees the chance to see their 15th Anniversary Best Sellers Collection. So visit their website for more details about the company or to browse products.
Posted by Editorial / Friday, September 5th, 2014
Leather details and varying heel heights make this shoe so versatile that it can be worn during any occasion. “Fall 2014 is all about the bootie and shoetie– designers have taken it in many different directions which allows anyone to incorporate this trend into their wardrobe,” Kelly Ferenc, owner of Bishop Boutique says.
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Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Editorial / Thursday, September 4th, 2014
By Susannah Black
Dish: Danny Deco Roll, $14
Where: Flying Fish, 815 King St., Alexandria
Taste: Named after Flying Fish’s first (and former) sushi chef Danny Simmavong, the Danny Deco roll doubles the tuna, with the pink fish both inside and outside a ring of rice. Avocado contributes to the richness, tobiko (fish egg) brings a briny tang and fried tempura bits—and a mound of crispy potato straws—add crunch. Forgo the soy sauce and dip the Deco into a house-made creamy, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce decorating the plate.
MORE | Cravings
I completed the 5K I decided all of two weeks ago to do, and trained for twice. It went quite well, considering.
The last 5K I did was Easter weekend and I felt pretty sensational during that one so I was a little worried this time around might be a challenge as I pretty much haven’t run since Easter. My only goal was not to be slower than my last time which I think was around 38 or maybe 39 minutes. I did finish in that allotted time and the race didn’t feel too terrible, as in, I could run without feeling like I might keel over at any moment.
I did, however, notice that for the first mile and a half a slightly hunched senior citizen was in front of me. He seemed to be about seventysomething and ran in what resembled a slow shuffle. He was consistently in front of me, his senior shuffle just a tad faster than my jog. I wanted to beat him but I was at such a comfortable pace that I thought, why rock the boat and kudos to him for getting at it like that. But when I was pushing in on mile two, and still I felt comfortable to be coasting behind a rather old man who was shuffling while I dripped with sweat from my jog, I thought, maybe I ought to push myself just an ounce harder and overtake this guy.
I did and yet his shuffle haunted me the rest of the race, making me run faster than I cared to. I kept trying to discreetly look over my shoulder without looking paranoid that he was gaining on me. I could hear his shuffle though, consistently reminding me to not get too complacent in my run and maybe run faster than the 70-year-old, who despite being 70 and shuffling was clearly more fit.
My sister’s boyfriend snapped a photo of my finish and it made me realize something else. I couldn’t help but recall the 5K I completed on January, and the photo from that day as well. And then I suspected they might differ slightly.
Here is the one from eight months ago.
Here is the one from three days ago.
Even if I was getting surpassed by a very fit 70-year-old, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world after all.
Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
By Danielle Harvey
Get those walking shoes ready for September 18. The Shoe Hive, Hysteria and Sara Campbell are hosting the first annual fashion walk from Fairfax to Royal Street in Alexandria. The event is free and open to anyone. Enjoy cocktails at The Shoe Hive and Hysteria while browsing the latest collections from 6-7p.m. The runway shows at Sara Campbell will feature three categories including casual wear, work attire and evening wear at 7:30p.m and 8:30p.m. Guests can expect to see trends ranging from leather and houndstooth details to peplum tops and animal print dresses just to name a few. The informal atmosphere features a runway carpet with space to admire the looks being shown while people are shopping. With models showcasing options for any occasion, attendees will be ready for any fashionable moment fall brings their way. All three stores offer a free gift with purchase and guests can also register to win a gift card at each location.
Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
By Angela Bobo
It’s no secret that the style obsessed love fall fashion as it is the time when sartorial chops are expertly on display with carefully layered knits, scarves, leather and colorful jackets. One item that never evades the cold weather wardrobe starting five is a pair of boots. Whether cut short around the ankles or stacked tall to the knee, you could live in the right pair of boots all season long. It is so frustrating to finally get your hands on the new must-have boot only to find that it wasn’t made for you; it’s too tight or the calf is too wide. I seem to be in the latter tribe, which is why I was delighted to discover Duo Boots. The website offers a wide range of stylish shoes in 21 calf sizes and varying widths for a fit that will seem as if the cobbler made them solely for you. Visit the website today and grab your pair before the weather cools down.
Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
By Bailey Lucero-Carter
Flames will light the night sky this Saturday in Old Town Manassas as Civil War re-enactors burn a railroad car to commemorate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s 1862 raid on the junction. This event is just one of many that will bring history back to Manassas as part of Civil War Weekend.
In addition, Old Town Manassas is commemorating Civil War Weekend with guest speakers like Bob O’Connor, author of “Catesby: Eyewitness to the Civil War,” tours of the plantation Liberia, weapons demonstrations and a special three-day exhibition of the Virginia Civil War 150 HistoryMobile.
The HistoryMobile, winner of the American Association of State and Local History’s 2013 Leadership in History Award of Merit, was established summer of 2011 in accordance with the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas, also known as the Battle of Bull Run.
This museum on wheels is a tractor-trailer packed full of interactive exhibits and activities. The outside of the moving museum is laden with unique prints that depict places and people from the Civil War.
Inside, the museum is divided into four sections—Battlefront, Homefront, Journey to Freedom and Loss-Gain Legacy—where patrons can get a glimpse of what life was like for soldiers, civilians and enslaved families, while also learning about the sacrifices and benefits of the war.
Executive Director Cheryl Jackson says the museum’s new features include scanned family documents, photos and journals for patrons to examine.
In addition, visitors can become a part of the exhibit through the Legacy Project, which invites individuals to submit Civil War documents from their own families to the exhibit.
Civil War Weekend and the Civil War 150 HistoryMobile are free admission. The events and attractions are enjoyable for all ages.
Civil War Weekend
Historic Downtown Manassas
Aug. 22-23, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Aug. 24, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Every now and then we need to escape our lives. Getting away is therapeutic and oh-so-necessary. This is especially true in the Type A Land that is the Washington region.
Well, I did escape recently, as I do at least once a year. I went to Belize for a glorious, epic, furious, busy, exemplary 16 days. Some trips are relaxing. This one was invigorating.
I hiked, I snorkeled, I spelunked (which maybe sounds swankier than “I trudged through caves”) and I swam.
But along the way I also chatted and conversed with everyone who crossed my path— locals, fellow travelers, bartenders, guides. A constant topic, though not driven or instigated by yours truly, somehow always seemed to be relationships and the state of being single. Specifically being a single woman is, I guess, a situation that others crave to know.
“Why,” for certain, seemed to be the prevailing question, as if every singleton spins a “Wheel of Fortune” wheel and selects it.
It’s what the very first taxi driver of the excursion posed not 15 minutes after I had disembarked from a plane and wanted to not have to address. Actually, this gent’s phrasing was more like the following:
Why aren’t you married? You need to find a good man and then that guy should
handcuff you unless you’re traveling with him.
This sounds sexist or offensive. It was half in jest and half a result of not getting it, not being in my shoes. Yet his sentiment was somewhere along the lines of this:
I’m too independent. I’m too free, too wild. To some, the notion that a woman who
is not legally bound or otherwise tethered to a man is almost dangerous, crazy,
certainly out of their realm.
Why travel solo? Why run off and interact with strangers in strange lands? Why not follow the well-worn path?
Mind you, I met wonderful and progressive Belizeans with incredibly articulate perspectives on gender roles. Some men seemed honestly worried about being the type of man who allows a woman to do her thing. Yet, at the same time, they also want to “be a man” and flex their masculine muscles and step up as provider. It’s a tough spot to be in. I certainly didn’t have the secret formula for them to follow and concoct.
But I did have some answers for my taxi driver. We bantered for a few minutes, him saying how unusual it was that—at over 30—I’m childless. In Belize, he was quick to point out, many women have already delivered several babies by several men at this point in adulthood.
“I guess I’m behind. Or maybe I’m ahead. I don’t know,” I said to him, as some sort of ridiculous explanation.
The thing is it’s not really possible to explain such things. Why am I single? I haven’t met my soul mate. I date and I try. I’m not opposed to a male mate. Other than that, however, it’s a one day at a time pursuit.
Then it occurred to me that, way off in Belize, as I made my escape, it was the same type of discussion I’d have on American soil. Single ladies the region over constantly find themselves defending or explaining or just relaying stories from the war zone of dating.
I guess there’s no escape from that, even in far-flung travel.