Dog on the Move

As soon as known as Nationwide Touchdown, Amazon’s Arlington space tries on ‘NaLa’



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At first, it confirmed up on freebie water bottles. Then it made its manner onto rainbow T-shirts for Pleasure month.

In June, it popped up on Instagram as a hashtag, and this month it was all of a sudden plastered on the surfboard and silver Airstream arrange in a grassy patch of Arlington, declaring to the commuters, dog-walkers and joggers strutting by that their neighborhood had earned a brand-new nickname: NaLa.

Sure, “Nationwide Touchdown” — the time period invented by native financial improvement officers to lure Amazon to Northern Virginia 4 years in the past — is being shortened and SoHo-ized, whittled right down to a two-syllable abbreviation that claims every thing, and nothing, suddenly.

“NaLa?” requested Mohsin Abuholo, sitting on a bench close to a pretend lifeguard shack promoting the NaLa Seaside Membership on a moist night this week. “I assume it’s a reputation for a feminine. Like Anala?”

“That have to be a brand new factor they’re doing?” puzzled Allison Gaul, 38, a lawyer strolling her 10-year-old Dalmatian, Dotty, close by. “I don’t know what the hell ‘NaLa’ means.”

“I needed to attempt to determine that one out. I imply, certain, I assume,” stated Johnathan Edwards, 40, who moved again to the world a 12 months in the past for his job at Amazon. “I’m not an enormous fan of it, to be sincere.”

Nationwide Touchdown, the mixed umbrella title for this set of Northern Virginia neighborhoods — Crystal Metropolis, Pentagon Metropolis and Potomac Yard — was topic to loads of confusion when it first debuted in 2018, with many longtime residents refusing to undertake a label they stated felt like a company creation for Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Publish.)

Now, very like AdMo (Adams Morgan) and CoHi (Columbia Heights) earlier than it, or NoMa earlier than that, the world seems to be attempting on the sort of shorthand that, relying on whom you ask, is synonymous with both peak yuppiness or a brand new sort of city cool.

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Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, the chief director of the Nationwide Touchdown Enterprise Enchancment District (BID), made it clear that “NaLa” was nothing greater than an occasion collection her group was placing on this summer time.

Moreover the seaside membership — which invitations neighbors to “shut your eyes and revel in this summer time escape along with your toes within the sand” — there’s NaLa Match, that includes out of doors barre, HIIT and yoga courses, and NaLa Fridays on the Park, a weekly live performance collection that includes native musicians.

“It’s extra of a shorthand that’s meant to be enjoyable and punchy,” Sayegh Gabriel stated. “There’s no intention to introduce a brand new title for the neighborhood in any respect.”

However some others have additionally adopted the abbreviation, unprompted: A dentist’s workplace in Previous City Alexandria — formally outdoors the bounds of Nationwide Touchdown — lately modified its title to NaLa Smiles, partly to draw a few of Amazon’s new clients as sufferers. (“It was a greater abbreviation on boards and signage, and it sounds higher,” stated Hisham Barakat, the workplace’s proprietor.)

And throughout social media, a number of residents and small companies have additionally begun utilizing the shorthand for a quickly altering space that’s already seeing an inflow of recent condominium buildings, eating places and company relocations.

“We have now loads of neighborhood pleasure and fairness and social capital within the names that we’ve. So we’re actually dedicated to maintaining ‘Crystal Metropolis,’ ‘Pentagon Metropolis’ and ‘Potomac Yard’ in common use, together with the umbrella title of ‘Nationwide Touchdown,’ ” Sayegh Gabriel added. “It’s the vacation spot we’re constructing.”

That doesn’t imply everybody else sees it the identical manner.

‘A cultural shorthand’

The logic behind “NaLa” is nothing new within the D.C. space or past. So long as there have been neighborhoods, there have been portmanteaus meant to promote these neighborhoods and their potential trendiness.

“It’s form of a cultural shorthand,” stated Jeffrey Parker, an city sociologist on the College of New Orleans. “Locations with this type of title, this type of nomenclature are related to sure kinds of facilities and sure kinds of commerce. … It is rather foolish, but it surely’s branding. It’s boosterism.”

One of many earliest examples in the USA, he stated, is New York’s SoHo. As soon as a deteriorating, light-industrial space, it was rebranded by metropolis planners as they appeared to rezone the neighborhood for the artists taking up its spacious lofts.

It didn’t damage that the brand new title evoked a hip a part of London, and copycat variations adopted throughout Decrease Manhattan: Tribeca. NoMad. FiDi.

However greater than half a century later, as New York actual property brokers tried to hawk monikers like “SoHa” (South Harlem) and “SoBro” (the South Bronx) nicely outdoors town’s downtown core, some stated it had gone too far: One lawmaker even proposed a invoice that may punish brokers who used made-up names to promote property.

The pattern — and the following pile-on — made it contained in the Beltway not lengthy after. “North of Massachusetts Avenue” was efficiently re-christened “NoMa,” with a cease on the Metro’s Purple Line to seal the deal. Different makes an attempt withered amid the blowback: Neither SoNYA (South of New York Avenue), the GaP (between Georgia Avenue and Petworth), nor SoMo (southern Adams Morgan) appeared to stay.

“That is one thing very easy to make enjoyable of,” stated Parker, the city sociologist, however “folks see one thing work as soon as, they usually latch onto it.”

Maybe it’s no shock, then, that the two-syllable craze has reached South Arlington, the place this quickly altering neighborhood has for the previous 4 years been attempting to kind out its id — and what it ought to be known as.

After many years of being often known as a sort of soulless concrete maze, the neighborhoods of Crystal Metropolis (named for a chandelier within the foyer of an area constructing) and Pentagon Metropolis (after the close by house of the U.S. army) had been instantly thrust into city superstardom when Amazon introduced in November 2018 that it could be bringing its second headquarters right here.

However when officers celebrated the corporate’s new neighborhood as “Nationwide Touchdown,” an umbrella time period that additionally looped in a part of Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, the resounding response was: What?

“By no means heard of Nationwide Touchdown?” requested one native weblog. “You’re not alone.”

Stephanie Landrum tells its origin story: When financial improvement officers in Northern Virginia got here collectively in 2017 to submit a joint bid for Amazon’s second headquarters sweepstakes, the proposal was often known as “Alexandria-Arlington.”

She and her colleagues put collectively a 285-page booklet extolling the virtues of this booming area to ship to Amazon, and simply earlier than printing, realized they had been missing one thing — something — extra compelling to label it.

“We actually spent a lot time word-smithing every thing a few vibrant, linked neighborhood,” stated Landrum, the president and chief government of the Alexandria Financial Improvement Partnership, “that we sort of obtained to the final day and wanted to decide.”

Crystal Metropolis? That was only one neighborhood. Potomac Touchdown? That didn’t stick. Landrum stated she was texting her counterpart in Arlington, every with a celebratory glass of wine in hand, after they settled on “Nationwide Touchdown.”

The title, meant to evoke Reagan Nationwide Airport close by in addition to the world’s lengthy record of transportation choices, shortly grew to become ubiquitous within the respective places of work as they engaged in secret talks with Amazon over the next 12 months.

Once they lastly made the announcement, “we form of forgot that the remainder of the world didn’t know we had created this moniker,” Landrum stated.

Nonetheless, the BID and developer JBG Smith each embraced it, utilizing the title an increasing number of because the neighborhood started a bodily and cultural transformation: Moreover Amazon’s places of work, the world is now house to Boeing’s new headquarters and, quickly, Virginia Tech’s new graduate campus. There will probably be a brand new Yellow Line station in Potomac Yard (PoYa?), the primary added to the Metro system in many years, and a pedestrian bridge connecting the airport with the remainder of the neighborhood.

Sitting on a picnic desk close to the NaLa Seaside Membership, Robert Vainshtein, a 36-year-old federal worker, broke right into a chuckle when requested in regards to the neighborhood’s two new monikers.

“What’s incorrect with ‘Crystal Metropolis’ ?” requested Vainshtein, 36, an Alexandria resident who commutes right here for work. “It’s been ‘Crystal Metropolis’ eternally. I don’t suppose individuals are going to get that off the bat.”

Throughout the desk from him, Lauren Callahan, 27, stated “NaLa,” not to mention “Nationwide Touchdown,” has not clicked for her but, both. However the adjustments which have include these names are hardly a hassle.

She’s a fan of the free bananas that Amazon has been handing out close to Crystal Metropolis’s notorious underground mall, she famous, and the iced espresso the BID provides out weekly on the set up a number of yards away.

“They’re doing good issues for the world. It’s a really fashionable factor to do,” Callahan identified. “Who is aware of? Possibly ‘NaLa’ will catch on greater than ‘Nationwide Touchdown.’ ”

“Yeah,” Vainshtein objected, “but it surely’s made-up.”

“Effectively,” she requested, “what isn’t made up?”



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