In 1991 Northern Virginia author and journalist Joel Garreau coined the term edge cities to characterize the suburban business districts suddenly rising up around the nations largest urban cores. Writing in Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, Garreau supposed that these mini-cities represent the third wave of our lives pushing into new frontiers after World War II.
To qualify as an edge city, Garreau established five rules: five million square feet of office space, 600,000 square feet of retail space, the population must rise every morning and drop every afternoon (i.e. there are more jobs than homes), the place is known as a single-end destination (the place has it all: entertainment, shopping, etc.), and the place must not have been anything like a city 30 years ago (i.e. no cow pastures). With 23 in the metro Washington, D.C. area, Tysons Corner served as Garreaus model of an edge city.
Well, Mr. Garreau, meet the newest contender for the title: Eisenhower Valley.
The 4.5-mile east-west corridor, which parallels the citys southern border along Cameron Run, is being hailed by city officials as the future economic engine of Alexandria. With the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as its centerpiece, retail space along Eisenhower Avenue is expected to include 250 more businesses by 2020.
Big band sounds coming
That image may change in the next three weeks, as a 1940s-styled supper club and a major new hotel roll out their red carpets.
The Carlyle Club, a 1940s styled dinner club designed in grand Art Deco style, opens Oct. 20 at 411 John Carlyle Street with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, followed by the Rat Pack Tribute Show (Oct 25-28), Glenn Miller Orchestra (Nov. 8 and 9) and Cab Calloway (Nov. 16 and 17).
The chic new restaurant follows in the theme of Del Rays Birchmere, without the touring head-bangers and musical acts post-1970. No beers in pitchers; instead white-tablecloth dining, wine service and world-class big band entertainment, with the swinging orchestral music of the 40s, 50s and 60s taking front and center.
Ive always loved the music from that period, said Old Town attorney Brennan Reilly, 43, the clubs founder and sole investor. The idea is to go to one place and hang out for the night.
Though its billed as a club, theres no membership fee but jackets are requested. Flapper dresses optional. This is not a place you go to in jeans and a T-shirt, said Reilly, owner of Old Towns Gadsbys Tavern. We want to be somewhere between the Birchmere and Restaurant Eve.
Carlyle Club took four years of planning and $2.5 million in investment to create. Reilly took great pains to make the place look like one of the elegant Chicago joints where Frank, Sammy and Dean used to play, with Art Deco wallpaper, Terrazzo floors, custom-made carpeting from England and built-in and black-leather banquettes. About 175 seats face the stage, which can hold an 18-piece orchestra, with 50 more at the bar.
Westin takes shape
About a block away, the finishing touches are being put on the Westin Alexandria, scheduled to open Nov. 1 facing the Federal Courthouse. Last week General Manager John Varghese and Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Sorenson were busy moving into their new offices at the soaring, super-luxe hotel at 401 Courthouse Square.
The 15-story, $120 million project is Westins first entry into the Alexandria hotel market and will include 319 luxury rooms and 79 condominiums.
Were super-excited to be in Alexandria, said Sorenson, winner of this years David Speck Alexandria Tourism Partner of the Year Award. Theres pent-up demand for upscale product here.
By day, the hotels huge front windows flood the Jerusalem stone lobby with natural light for what Sorenson calls a sensory welcome. By night, the lights dim, a massive fireplace and sensory candles are lit and even the botanicals change. A tall statue of Benjamin Banneker, the 18th-century free African American mathematician, astronomer and clockmaker, gazes down contentedly. In the lounge, guests can patent their own cocktails or grab dinner in the American-styled grille, with meals prepared by renowned chef Nadine Thomas, recently arrived from Bostons Westin Copley Place.