The Arlington area of ​​the Amazon, formerly called the National Landing, has been trying to use NaLa


At first, she appeared on the freebie water bottles. Then he made his way to rainbow shirts Pride month.

In June, it appeared on Instagram as a hashtag, and this month it was suddenly glued to a surfboard, and a silver Airstream was created in a grassy patch in Arlington, Announcing to commuters, dog walkers and joggers who strut about, their neighborhood has earned a brand new moniker: NaLa.

yes, “National Landing” — a term coined by local economic development officials to lure Amazon into Northern Virginia four years ago — has been shortened and shortened to a two-syllable acronym that says everything, and nothing, at once.

“Nala?” asked Mohsen Abu Helou, sitting on a bench near the hut of a fake lifeguard advertising the Nala Beach Club on a humid evening this week. “I guess it’s a female name. Like Annala?”

“Must this be something new they’re doing?” wondered Alison Gaul, 38, a lawyer who walks her 10-year-old Dalmatian, Dottie, nearby. “I don’t know what the hell ‘Nala’ means.”

“I had to try to figure it out. I mean, sure, I guess,” said Jonathan Edwards, 40, who returned to the area a year ago for his job at Amazon. “I’m not a huge fan of him, to be honest.”

National Landing, the combined generic name for this group of Northern Virginia boroughs—Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard—was subject to a lot of confusion When it debuted in 2018, many longtime residents refused to adopt a brand they said looked like a company for Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Now, like a lot AdMo (Adams Morgan) and CoHi (Columbia Heights) before him, or NoMa Prior to that, the area appears to be trying to use a type of shorthand which, depending on who you ask, is synonymous with either climax or a new kind of urban calm.

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Tracey Sayegh Gabriel, Executive Director of the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID), explained that Nala was nothing more than a series of events her organization was organizing this summer.

Next to beach club – who invites neighbors to “close your eyes and enjoy summer vacation with your toes in the sand” – there Nala Fitwhich includes outdoor classes, HIIT and yoga classes, and Nala Fridays at the Parka weekly concert series featuring local musicians.

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“It’s an acronym meant to be fun and useful,” said Sayegh Gabriel. “There is no intention of introducing a new name for the neighborhood at all.”

But others have also adopted the unbridled acronym: A dentist’s office in Old Alexandria — officially outside of National Landing — recently changed its name to NaLa Smiles, in part to attract some new Amazon customers as patients. (“It was a better acronym on the board and banners, and that looks better,” said Hisham Barakat, the owner of the office.)

And the Next to social The mediaA few residents and small businesses are also starting to use the acronym for a rapidly changing area that is already seeing an influx of new apartment buildings, restaurants, and Corporate Transfers.

“We have a lot of community pride, equality and social capital in the names we have. So we are really committed to keeping ‘Crystal City’, ‘Pentagon City’ and ‘Potomac Yard’ in regular use, along with the inclusive name” National Landing. “It’s the destination we’re building.”

This does not mean that everyone else sees it the same way.

cultural shorthand

The logic behind “NaLa” is nothing new in or outside the DC area. As long as there have been neighborhoods, there have been many stores that aim to sell those neighborhoods and their potential direction.

“It’s kind of cultural shorthand,” said Jeffrey Parker, an urban sociologist at the University of New Orleans. “Places with that kind of name, that kind of label are associated with certain types of amenities and certain types of commerce. … It’s very silly, but it’s a brand. It’s a reinforcement.”

One of the oldest examples in the United States, he said, is SoHo in New York. It was once a dilapidated light industrial area City planners renamed them While they were looking to repartition the neighborhood the artists who had taken over its spacious lofts.

It didn’t hurt that the new name sparked a hip part in London, and copycats followed across lower Manhattan: Tribeca. NoMad. FiDi.

But more than half a century later, when New York real estate agents tried to sell nicknames like “SoHa” (South Harlem) and “SoBro” (South Bronx) outside the downtown core, some said it had gone too far: Even one legislator Propose a bill It would punish brokers who used made-up names to sell real estate.

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The trend – and the subsequent buildup – Make it inside the Beltway After not too long. North Massachusetts Street was He was successfully re-baptized “NoMa” with a stop on the subway red line to seal the deal. Other attempts faded amid setbacks: neither SONYA (south of New York Street), GaP (between Georgia Street and Petworth), nor SoMo (South Adams Morgan) He seemed to be stuck.

“This is really easy to mock,” said Parker, the urban sociologist, but “people see something that works once, and they stick to it.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the two-section frenzy has reached South Arlington, where this rapidly changing neighborhood for the past four years has been trying to define who it is — and what it should be called.

After decades of being known as a sort of soulless concrete maze, the neighborhoods of Crystal City (named after a chandelier in the foyer of a local building) and Pentagon City (after a nearby home for the US Army) It was promptly propelled to urban stardom when Amazon announced in November 2018 that it would move its second headquarters here.

But when officials celebrated the company’s new neighborhood as “National Landing,” a catch-all term that also dissolved into part of Alexandria’s Potomac Square, the resounding reaction was: What?

“Have you heard of the national landing?” Requested One local blog. “you are not alone.”

Stephanie Landrum tells her upbringing story: When economic development officials in Northern Virginia gathered in 2017 to submit a joint bid for Amazon’s second headquarters sweepstakes, the proposal was known as “Alexandria-Arlington.”

She and her colleagues compiled a 285-page pamphlet praising the virtues of this thriving region to send to Amazon, and right before printing, they realized they were missing out on something – anything – More urgent to name it.

“We literally spent so much time crafting everything about a vibrant, interconnected community that we got to the last day and needed to make a decision,” said Landrum, President and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership in Alexandria.

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Crystal City? That was just one neighborhood. Potomac landing? This did not stick. Landrum said she was texting her Arlington counterpart, with every celebratory glass of wine in hand, when they settled on “National Landing.”

The name, meant to call the nearby Reagan National Airport as well as a long list of transportation options in the area, quickly became ubiquitous in the respective offices as they engaged in secret talks with Amazon over the following year.

“We kind of forgot that the rest of the world didn’t know we made that title,” Landrum said when they finally made the announcement.

Still, BID and developer JBG Smith They both hugged herUsing the name more and more as the neighborhood began a physical and cultural transformation: Alongside the Amazon offices, the area is now home to the new Boeing headquarters and, soon, the new campus of Virginia Tech alumni. There will be the new Yellow Line station at Potomac Yard (PoYa?), the first landfill station added to the metro system in decades, and a pedestrian bridge connecting the airport to the rest of the neighborhood.

Sitting at a picnic table near the NaLa Beach Club, 36-year-old federal employee Robert Feinstein burst into a chuckle when asked about the two new neighborhood nicknames.

“What is the problem with ‘Crystal City’?” asked Vainshtein, 36, an Alexandria resident who commutes here for work. “It has been ‘Crystal City’ forever. I don’t think people will ever get away with it.”

On the other side of the table, 27-year-old Lauren Callahan said “NaLa,” not to mention “National Landing,” hasn’t clicked on her yet either. But the changes with these names are hardly troublesome.

She’s a fan of the free bananas Amazon was distributing near the infamous underground mall in Crystal City, she noted, and the iced coffee BID serves weekly at the facility a few yards away.

“They do nice things for the area. It’s a very trendy thing,” Callahan noted. “Who do you know? Perhaps he will catch more “NaLa” than “National Landing”. “

“Yes,” Vainshtein objected, “but made up.”

I asked, “Well, what wasn’t made up?”

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