Photo by Christian Wiediger
On November 13th, Amazon announced it had selected Long Island City in Queens, New York and National Landing in Arlington, Virginia as its two new headquarters locations. The entire population of the Washington metropolitan area raised its collective eyebrows and asked, “What the heck is National Landing?”
According to Amazon’s press release, “National Landing is an urban community in Northern Virginia located less than three miles from downtown Washington, DC. The area is served by three Metro stations, commuter rail access, and Reagan National Airport—all within walking distance. The community has a variety of hotels, restaurants, high-rise apartment buildings, retail, and commercial offices. National Landing has abundant parks and open space with sports and cultural events for residents of all ages throughout the year.” So why didn’t the locals know about this great place? In fact, National Landing didn’t even have a Wikipedia page at the time of Amazon’s announcement.
The internet was abuzz with people claiming that Amazon was assigning a new moniker to Crystal City. The Washingtonian published an article on its website titled “Did Amazon Just Rename Crystal City?” Twitter users joked that if Amazon brings 25,000 new jobs to the area, it can call Crystal City whatever it wants.
So where is National Landing, exactly? Let’s start with the basics. National Landing is in the commonwealth of Virginia;more specifically, it’s in Northern Virginia (which is an odd name considering that there isn’t a region called Southern Virginia). NoVA, as it’s commonly called, is a region composed of the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas, and Manassas Park, according to the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s website. Arlington is a county within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since it’s not within a city, Arlington is a self-governing county, and it does not contain any incorporated towns or villages. Arlington is divided into two unincorporated areas with Route 50 serving as the dividing line: North Arlington and South Arlington. Almost all Arlington street names begin with the prefix “North” or “South.”
Both North Arlington and South Arlington contain a mixture of residential neighborhoods, historic districts, and urban villages. Urban villages, though not actually incorporated villages, are “compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods” according to UrbanVillage.com. The urban villages in South Arlington are Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Shirlington. The fact that two of these places have the word “city” in their name just makes things more confusing. “Why does the app say we’re going to Arlington?” countless tourists have asked their Uber drivers. “I want to go to Crystal City.”
Crystal City got its name in the early 1960s when developer Robert H. Smith built a slew of apartment buildings each with the word “Crystal” in its name, the first of which was Crystal House in 1961 with a large crystal chandelier in the lobby. Prior to that, Crystal City was a nameless area of junkyards and industrial sites along Route 1. Crystal City is nicknamed “Underground City” because of its many underground corridors linking stores, offices, and apartment buildings. It even has an underground mall, which opened in 1976 as Crystal Underground and is now Crystal City Shops.
Now here’s where things get complicated (if you didn’t think they were complicated already). National Landing extends beyond Crystal City. It also includes parts of Pentagon City and Potomac Yard in Alexandria. If it was self-governing, it could be a municipality, but National Landing doesn’t have a governing body. It doesn’t even have borders! Stephanie Landrum, President and CEO of Alexandria Economic Development, told Washingtonian that National Landing has “no finite boundaries” and represents “an interesting way to erase an invisible line between the jurisdictions.”
Basically, National Landing is a community, albeit an amorphous one. Will it someday be nicknamed NaLa? Will the communities adjacent to it one day be referred to as North National Landing? Whatever you call it, the property values in National Landing are about to rise.
About the author: Aliza Epstein is a native of the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Arlington, VA. She works as a non-profit manager.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site