Q&A With Vornado/Charles E. Smith President Mitchell Schear
Bisnow: Exactly how many properties does Vornado own in Crystal City?
Mitchell Schear: We own 26 buildings, which is about 8M SF. It’s an unusual opportunity to shape what’s really an entire city.
Bisnow: While it’s certainly a unique opportunity to have such a large stake in an entire section of the DC region, a growing area in the middle of a rebirth needs an extensive amount of attention. How are you approaching the task of developing Crystal City?
Mitchell: We take a very holistic view of the whole area and we think of ways that we can add to the street vitality. How we can attract creative companies? How we can inspire interesting experiences and create memorable properties? It’s all connected. For us, it’s much more than a sum of the parts.
Bisnow: At the core of Crystal City’s revitalization is the tech and startup scene. Are there any specific ways in which Vornado has worked to accommodate/attract newer companies with promise?
Mitchell: We just opened a WeWork and WeLive at 2221 S Clark St. We took a building—that in this case was a much older, more tired building—and we worked with the creative folks from WeWork and WeLive to create something new and enticing. If you go there today, you’ll see a total transformation. We’ve given that property a whole new vibe and we’re pretty excited about it.
Bisnow: While tech and startup culture has played a vital role in the reimagined Crystal City, what else about the area is attractive to professionals?
Mitchell: If you think about the location of Crystal City and you think about the transportation aspect of the neighborhood, it arguably has the best transit in the region. You can walk to a major airport. How often does that happen? Professionals in the DC area are looking for access to Capitol Hill and access to the airport. Crystal City provides that.
Bisnow: How would you sum up the experience of redeveloping an entire mini-city?
Mitchell: It’s a natural living lab. We think of ourselves as an urban place that has great vibrancy, great retail and great transit. I think that we’re going to provide great value from a real estate perspective. It’s cheaper to be in Arlington, VA, (where Crystal City sits) than in Downtown DC. While there are still vacancies in some of our buildings, it is only a matter of time until our absorption is even stronger.