3 Keys to Fostering a Successful Edge City

3 Keys to Fostering a Successful Edge City

Many young professionals are putting down roots in walkable edge cities located just outside of larger metropolitan areas. These cities offer all of the perks of living in an urban area, like access to retail and restaurant options, at a much lower cost. In recent years, for example, more than 16,000 households have left Washington D.C., while cities just outside D.C. are attracting young professionals and entrepreneurs. Arlington, for one, was ranked third on Niche’s list of Best Cities to Raise a Family in America and fifth on its list of Best Cities for Young Professionals in America this year. Amazon also opened its second headquarters in Arlington earlier this year, a testament to the city’s up-and-coming technology scene.

Rosslyn is a particularly exciting neighborhood in Arlington, modeling both the edge and 15-minute city. The area provides residents with the best of both worlds with urban appeal, parks and open space, and plenty of amenities – all within walking distance to Georgetown and just a short Metro ride from D.C. 

Rosslyn is an exciting success story that showcases what it takes to create an appealing edge city: innovation, partnerships, and talent. Let’s take a closer look at each.


Amazon’s Arlington headquarters are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attracting tech companies and innovation to the community. Unstuck Labs, an award-winning tech accelerator, recently set up shop in Rosslyn City Center (RCC) – right in the heart of the city. Every Tuesday, Unstuck Labs offers free entrepreneurial workshops for founders looking to level up. 

Innovative use of space also sets Rosslyn apart. As people return to work, they don’t want to be stuck in a stark office environment, which is why property owners are ditching “traditional” office spaces in favor of vibrant, colorful spaces with plenty of natural light and Rosslyn’s iconic      views. Amenities like RCC’s 30,000-square-foot food hall offer a compelling location for meetings and networking, and its on-site fitness center, Metro station, and retail options provide everything young professionals need before, during, and after the workday. RCC is just one example of how properties in Rosslyn are getting it right when it comes to attracting innovators from around the country. 


Fostering an exciting edge city requires alignment between everyone in the ecosystem, and Rosslyn has benefitted from close partnerships between local government, property owners, and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID), with everyone doing their part. For example, Arlington County government has paved the way for fresh new concepts through its Commercial Resiliency Initiative, which has helped to reimagine the typical uses of commercial spaces to include businesses like distilleries and breweries, animal boarding, micro-fulfillment centers, and more. 

Property owners are doing their part by reimagining office buildings and bringing in the amenities and collaborative spaces employees want into their buildings. The BID then layers in additional amenities in the public realm, beautifying and programming public spaces with activities, events, and installations that bring the community together. When all of these stakeholders work together, they can create thriving cities that offer people what they want and need – in areas where they feel safe, connected, and grounded.


While proximity to Washington, D.C. is appealing to residents of Rosslyn, the district’s proximity to large universities is attractive to companies setting up shop there. The University of Maryland just earned its highest-ever ranking from U.S. News & World Report, while its computer science program ranks in the top 10 among public universities. The University of Virginia, which earned a top-three ranking among public schools last year, as well as the Virginia Tech Research Center, Georgetown University, George Mason University’s new tech hub, and Marymount University are also nearby. Rosslyn itself is home to UVA Darden and Northeastern University Arlington, as well as a primary school, two secondary schools, and an online university. This provides a robust talent pipeline that is crucial for Rosslyn’s long-term trajectory.

The bottom line

Large city living will always retain its appeal, but edge cities like Arlington are demonstrating their ability to compete. Many offer the walkability, retail, and restaurants that make urban living exciting without the high cost of larger areas. As property owners, government officials, and businesses work together to create thriving communities, edge cities will continue to thrive. Rosslyn has become a national epicenter for attracting accomplished professionals and fostering entrepreneurship, through innovation, partnerships, and a sustainable talent pipeline. As other edge cities look to attract both residents and businesses, Rosslyn offers an exciting and replicable blueprint for success.

Mary-Claire Burick is President of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District

Paul Schulman is Principal & COO of American Real Estate Partners