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JBG Smith Files For Crystal City Retail Development, Aims To Attract Amazon

A rendering of JBG Smith's Alamo Drafthouse-anchored Crystal City development

The D.C. area's largest developer is moving forward with plans to create a retail entertainment district in Crystal City, and it hopes its vision for revitalizing the area will attract Amazon to select the submarket for its new $5B campus. 

JBG Smith filed a site plan application with Arlington County Monday to create 120K SF of new retail space, through renovations and new development, around the Crystal City Metro station. 

The newly formed REIT had set its sights on Crystal City as a redevelopment priority well before Amazon announced its search for the new campus, but JBG Smith Co-Chief Development Officer Brian Coulter acknowledged the timing was fortuitous. The developer's Crystal City portfolio consists of more than 20 office buildings, many of which are vacant and obsolete, within a stone's throw of Reagan National Airport. 

"We would absolutely do backflips to land Amazon, we would love to have Amazon," Coulter said. "We think there are a lot of attributes here they would find very appealing in terms of the transportation aspects."  

The proposed retail development is centered along what JBG Smith is branding as Crystal City's North District, the stretch of Crystal Drive from 15th Street to 18th Street. It will be anchored by Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater/restaurant chain that signed on in June.

The entertainment venue will occupy 1770 Crystal Drive, a 1970s-era office building that JBG Smith plans to convert to multifamily. Coulter said it plans to file the application for the conversion project within the next 45 days. After that, he said JBG Smith's focus will move to the next stretch of Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th streets, where it sees more opportunities for office-to-residential conversion.

“We think there is a need for more residential,” Coulter said. “One of the issues over time that Crystal City has dealt with is it’s viewed as a business environment. We’re looking to infuse more residential and make this a vibrant city that has all of the uses.”  

JBG Smith is looking to sign a specialty grocer for an 18K SF space on the corner of Crystal Drive and 15th Street, and it has space for additional shops and restaurants. It hopes to have county approval by spring 2018 and deliver the new retail by mid-2020. The developer is also creating a new Metro entrance at 18th Street and Crystal Drive, and it is investing in streetscape and public space improvements.