By Missy Schrott | [email protected]
In recent years, the Carlyle neighborhood in Alexandria has been growing, from the development of new office buildings and residential complexes to the evolution of the area’s sense of community and vibrancy.
Carlyle is a 76-acre, mixed-use community adjacent to Old Town that falls within the Eisenhower East small area plan. Home to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation and the Eisenhower Avenue Metro Station, the area has become known as a transit-oriented commercial hub, with about 14,000 people commuting in and out of the area per day, according to Morgan Babcock, manager of Carlyle Council, a group that represents property owners in the neighborhood.
In addition, the neighborhood’s apartment complexes and other residential developments are home to nearly 3,000 residents, according to Babcock.
With new businesses like Lost Boy Cider, the first urban cidery in Northern Virginia, and Whiskey & Oyster, the latest venture of Homegrown Restaurant Group, opening in the past month, residents have been hearing the Carlyle name more often.
In addition to new businesses, the growing buzz is partially due to the Carlyle Vitality Initiative, a city initiative that implements physical and experiential improvements in the area, according to the city’s website.
The Carlyle Vitality Initiative was largely a result of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office relocating from Crystal City to Carlyle in 2005. As a condition of the USPTO’s special use permit, the developer contributed $1.8 million to future benefits in the Carlyle neighborhood, according to city documents.
Nearly a decade later in 2014, the city manager designated an interdepartmental team to lead the neighborhood initiative, according to city documents. The time gap was due to the development boom that followed the USPTO to Carlyle and the fact that the neighborhood was still growing.
“Carlyle was still sort of getting its legs under it, and the community, they were still feeling out the space,” Katherine Carraway, urban planner with the Department of Planning and Zoning, said.
Throughout 2015, representatives from P&Z, the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, Carlyle Council, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Visit Alexandria worked with the community to plan the improvements that the initiative would fund, according to Carrie Beach, division chief with P&Z. The program itself launched in 2016.
Since then, the Carlyle Vitality Initiative has funded events including happy hours, movie screenings and outdoor fitness classes, as well as signage throughout the neighborhood.
In January of this year, the city hired Roxanne Wilson as an event planner for the initiative after putting out a request for proposals for the position.
“My role is to be the event coordinator, to fulfill the role of the Carlyle Vitality Initiative,” Wilson said. “It really brings entertainment to the community and makes people aware of the different activities and different entertainment functions that the neighborhood could offer.”
Wilson said the various community events she organizes often spotlight local businesses, from having Pure Barre instructors teach outdoor fitness classes to involving The Carlyle Club and Sweet Fire Donna’s in happy hours.
“We just want to keep that momentum going to involve the different businesses in Carlyle,” Wilson said. “We really want to make sure that people are not only aware that Carlyle is a great place to work, but it’s also a great place to have fun.”
This Saturday, the Carlyle Vitality Initiative will host its first block party. The event takes place in John Carlyle Square and its surrounding streets and will feature live music, beer gardens, food trucks and activities for children.
“We wanted to make sure that people had the opportunity to drink and hang out and eat and relax and have a great time with their families,” Wilson said. “The block party will be filled with kid games, balloon-twisting, games, face painting. We’ll also have … two beer gardens featuring our awesome local brand Port City, and then we’ll have a great bar from the Lost Boy Cider, which is brand new to our area.”
Throughout the rest of the summer, the initiative team will continue to host its cinema series, happy hours and fitness classes. Later this year, it will also host a Taste of Carlyle event in early September and holiday festivities in December.
“It’s just going to flourish within five years,” Babcock said. “The minimal amount of vacancy that we have in Carlyle will be filled just because it’s such a growing area and everyone’s really coming to see. …. The more we do things with the vitality initiative and just discussing it more, the more people realize from outside of Carlyle all that it has to offer.”