Concerns about the wisdom of doling out millions in incentives to lure Amazon to Arlington have abounded ever since rumors first kicked up that the company could head to the county — but Tuesday’s celebration of the move in Pentagon City didn’t betray much trepidation among state and local leaders.
Instead, Gov. Ralph Northam and a cadre of others devoted the afternoon to hailing the tech giant’s decision to bring a new headquarters to Arlington as a transformative one for the region.
Crystal City and its surrounding neighborhoods have long struggled with a high office vacancy rate, ever since the military and other federal agencies fled the area years ago, a problem that vanished virtually as soon as Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s leaders tabbed the newly dubbed “National Landing” for half of their planned “HQ2.” Accordingly, the mood among local leaders was positively ebullient — even as they persistently sought to quell a nervous public’s fears about the company’s impact on the region.
“This proposal to Amazon represents a new model for economic development in the 21st century,” Northam told a crowd of more than hundred elected officials, business leaders and members of the media. “This recognizes the needs to minimize impacts on the region… and these incentives we’ve proposed will generate a net positive return from day one.”
Certainly, no aspect of the county’s pursuit of the tech giant has attracted quite as much scrutiny as the incentive package it would offer to help Arlington stand out over the bevy of other suitors interested in earning Amazon’s attention. Critics from all along the political spectrum feared that the state and county could well give away so many tax breaks to the company as to make the project’s benefits on the local economy negligible at best.
But with the deal finally out in the open, after Amazon forced officials into silence for months, Arlington leaders are ready to make the case that they help broker a fair deal for the new headquarters.
“There’s a lot of people who had a worst-case scenario for what they expected to happen, and I think any clear, objective analysis shows that has not been realized,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “I don’t want to make this rosy; we’re going to have housing challenges, transportation challenges, land use challenges, we’re going to have to deal with all of that stuff. But hopefully people recognize the incentives aren’t crippling our commitment to our residents.”
In all, the state and county will combine to give Amazon about $819 million in tax breaks and other investments, with about $23 million in grant money coming from the county over the next 15 years. Arlington will pull that money away from an existing tax on hotel rooms, but all the incentives Amazon receives are contingent on it creating at least 25,000 jobs in the area over the coming years. The company could even reach more than 37,000 jobs by 2034.
However, when the company announced that it would be halving its initial proposal to bring 50,000 jobs to whichever area it selected for a new “HQ2”, cries grew louder that the state might be paying for only half of the investment it was initially promised.
Northam told reporters only that the state “had to make some modifications” in response to that development, but did not elaborate further. But even with Arlington splitting the new headquarters with Long Island City, he praised the deal for its potential to “diversify our economy” away from dependence on the federal government in a transformative way.
Arlington leaders certainly agree with that sentiment.
Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development, remembers shouting “yahoo!” when he and his staff received confirmation of the good news last night. He added that Apple has since started looking elsewhere for its new headquarters, eyeing Fairfax County instead, but that hardly matters given the size of the county’s Amazon deal.
“What’s great about it is it also opens the door to other businesses, because there are other businesses that like to follow Amazon, there are businesses that support Amazon, and there are some businesses that support the community,” Hoskins said. “All of that is going to happen too, and for us that’s the larger opportunity.”
Other officials pointed out that other nearby states put forward incentive packages worth billions, while Virginia’s offer primarily focuses on investments in transportation and education improvements. The deal with Amazon calls for new state investments in everything from Metro infrastructure to new high-tech education programs at Virginia Tech and George Mason University.
“We long ago thought, when we heard New Jersey and Maryland were putting billions of dollars on the table, there’s no way we’re going to compete with that,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “Our package is 95 percent investments that we were going to do already, and there’s a small increment there in the [hotel tax], which is paid by people who visit Arlington and not people who live in Arlington, so we’re pretty happy with what we were able to do.”
Still, Dorsey acknowledged that county officials have plenty of work to do to make the sell to the community. The Board is set sign off on portions of its deal with Amazon in February, and the General Assembly will also scrutinize incentive packages, leaving plenty of time for critics to have their say.
“The taxpayer funded subsidy offers made to Amazon by the state of Virginia have been completely hidden, and there has yet to be any opportunity for local community input on this deal,” Roshan Abraham, an organizer with Our Revolution Arlington representing a coalition of opponents to Amazon’s plans, wrote in a statement. “We oppose a massive state gift to a company headed by the world’s richest person.”
Ballston Quarter could open to customers as soon as this week, marking an unofficial end to the years-long redevelopment of the old Ballston Common mall.
Signs posted around the development’s elevator banks list Thursday (Nov. 15) as the site’s opening day. Specifically, the signs advertise that the two main floors of Ballston Quarter — including the first floor with “street-level access” and the second floor with an area dubbed “Instagram alley” — will open this week.
Meanwhile, the third level of the development, which includes Regal Cinemas and the newly rechristened Onelife Fitness, is now open to pedestrian traffic. However, many of the stores on the level remain under construction. The new “Quarter Market,” a 25,000-square-foot food hall, won’t open until February 2019, the signs say.
A spokeswoman for Forest City, the developer spearheading Ballston Quarter, did not respond to a request for comment to confirm those dates.
Forest City initially hoped to open at least some of the stores in the development by the end of September. But delays convinced the developer to aim for late October instead, yet Ballston Quarter has remained closed to public access since then, and Forest City has been conspicuously silent on the matter. The developer has also had to push back plans to open a refurbished pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd to next year.
However, Onelife Fitness, once known as the Sport&Health fitness club, has a grand opening event scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) following its $2 million renovation work and rebranding. Punch Bowl Social, a combination bar and entertainment venue, has also now formally announced plans for a Dec. 8 grand opening event, after posting signs around Ballston advertising the night earlier this month.
Forest City has previously announced a bevy of other shops, restaurants and other businesses set to move into the former mall. The development had roughly 75 percent of its space leased as of the end of September, and the mall has begun maintaining a full list of retailers on its website.
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, Nov. 13
Dominion Guild Merry Market
Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road)
Time: 5:30-9:30 p.m.
The Dominion Guild, Inc. will hold its two-day annual holiday boutique, the Merry Market. Tonight, Bubbly and Bites at the Merry Market, will be held from 5:30-9:30 p.m. All day shopping will be available on Nov. 14 from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Tuesday Evening Learning: Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam
Congregation Etz Hayim (2920 Arlington Blvd.)
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Engage in conversation with members of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam; the only community where equal numbers of Israeli Palestinians and Jews live and educate their children together. Co-sponsored by Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington and Kol Ami.
Wednesday, Nov. 14
Global SOF Foundation National Capital Region Reception*
Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway)
Time: 6-9 p.m.
This evening reception will bring together the Special Operations and Defense-focused community in the U.S. capital for a unique networking opportunity. This year’s Keynote Speaker is Susan M. Gordon, who currently serves as Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.
Thursday, Nov. 15
Arlington’s Public Spaces Master Plan Open Door Event
Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street)
Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
Ask questions or share your thoughts about the final draft for Arlington’s Public Spaces Master Plan. Developed after more than three years of partnership with the PSMP Update Advisory Committee, numerous public engagement activities and more than 1,000 recorded community comments, the new plan will replace the 2005 Plan and is one of 11 critical components of Arlington County’s Comprehensive Plan.
Friday, Nov. 16
Sound Check Music Bingo
Mister Days Sports Rock Cafe (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
Time: 6-9 p.m.
It’s Bingo with a twist as we test your music knowledge. You have to figure out the song in 30 seconds and then match it to your bingo card. Get 5 in a row in any direction to win the game.
Jingle ARRGH the Way
Gunston Arts Center (2700 S. Lang Street)
Time: 7:30-9 p.m.
Encore Stage & Studio presents Jingle ARRGH the Way! A mysterious message left in the crow’s nest of their ship brings Captain Braid Beard and his pirate mates back to North Beach to seek out young Jeremy Jacob to help solve a riddle and find the Christmas treasure. Performances also scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday, Nov. 17
Jennifer Bush-Lawson 5K & Family Fun Day*
Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road)
Time: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
The 4th annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson 5K & Family Fun Day carries on the legacy of Jenn Lawson, a dedicated mom and runner who was passionate about making available to all mothers the same level of care she received for her own complicated pregnancies.
Arlington County’s E-CARE
1425 N. Quincy Street
Time: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Residents can safely dispose of hazardous household materials (HHM), and recycle items including bikes, small metal items and much more. HHM are products found in the home that are flammable, corrosive, poisonous or potentially hazardous.
Lyon Park Crafts Fair
Lyon Park Community Center (414 N. Fillmore Street)
Time: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The event will feature handmade crafts and baked goods, with lunch served from 11 am to 1 pm. The Lyon Park not-just-for-Women’s Club will offer restaurant quality Reggiano Parmesan at below market prices. Preorders are recommended. For information, call 703.524.8531 or see the web site at www.Lyonpark.org.
*Denotes sponsored event
The South Arlington Lions Club will be hosting its annual Christmas Tree Sale and Christmas Tree 5K on Columbia Pike this holiday season!
Benefits from the Christmas Tree 5K and Lions Club Christmas Tree Sale will provide resources for sight preservation, disaster relief, Arlington Youth activities, the Arlington Free Clinic and the Arlington Food Assistance Center. The Club will be providing Christmas trees to low-income families as well to provide joy during holiday celebrations.
The Lions Club will hold its 55th annual Christmas Tree Sale starting Friday, November 23rd through Monday, December 24th this holiday season. The Christmas Tree Sale returns to Columbia Pike for its 27th year on the Pike. The Christmas Tree Sale will take place at the corner of Columbia Pike and South Four Mile Run Drive between 12pm-8pm (Monday-Friday) and 9am-7pm (Sat-Sun).
The William A. Wildhack Christmas Tree 5K will take place on the W&OD Trail from Columbia Pike to Bluemont Park and back on Saturday, December 1st at 11:00am. Participants can register for the 5K at www.safetyandhealthfoundation.org/christmastree.
Please join the South Arlington Lions Club in celebrating the holiday season by joining us for our events this year!
This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!
Question: Are funding fees on VA loans eligible for seller credits?
Answer: Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs are known as VA Loans and provide current and former service members with an opportunity to purchase a home with as little as 0% down.
In addition to the normal closing costs (title fees, transfer taxes, etc.), a funding fee is charged at settlement, which is equal to anywhere from 1.25-3.3% of the loan amount, depending on size of down payment, type of service and whether or not it’s the borrower’s first time using the VA loan program.
It’s a fee paid to the VA on every loan to offset the cost of loans that default (similar to mortgage insurance on non-VA loans). Disabled veterans are eligible to have the entire fee waived.
In a previous column, I explained how buyers can negotiate for seller credits to reduce or eliminate the out-of-pocket expense of closing costs at settlement. Fortunately, the funding fee falls into this category, along with the rest of the standard closing costs associated with a VA loan, and buyers are eligible to have all of these costs covered by the seller.
In theory, if a buyer is able to negotiate 100% of closing costs paid by the seller and chooses a 0% down payment loan, a home can be purchased cash-free.
If you’re unable to negotiate seller credits to cover the funding fee and are concerned about having the cash to pay for closing costs, you’re also allowed to roll the funding fee into your mortgage so that it becomes part of your monthly payment.
Some Other Facts about VA Loans You May Not Know
- Financing is available up to $1,500,000, just not at 0% down
- You can use your VA entitlement more than once
- VA loans are assumable (can transfer from seller to buyer at seller’s rates) which is a big deal in today’s market because rates have been increasing steadily
- Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM’s) are also available, not just fixed-rate
Arlington Veterans Affairs (VA) Loans by the Numbers
- In 2017, 261 of 3,130 buyers (8.3%) used a VA loan. By comparison, 2,173 used a Conventional loan (69.4%)
- The average purchase price for homes purchased using a VA loan was just over $615,751
- 38% of VA loans were used to purchase a condo, 29% to purchase a townhouse and 33% to purchase a single-family home
- On average, buyers using a VA loan negotiated 2.3% off the original asking price. By comparison, buyers using a conventional loan negotiated 2.2% off the original asking price and cash buyers negotiated 4% off the original asking price
I hope the veterans and active duty military readers had a great Veterans Day Weekend. Thank you for your service!
If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.
Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.
Northern Virginia and DMV-Area Families: An innovative and global preschool-Grade 12 school is coming to DC next year – The Whittle School & Studios! Aimed at educating and nurturing curious, compassionate global citizens, The Whittle School is the brainchild of entrepreneur Chris Whittle, American media and education leader, former chairman of Esquire Magazine and founder of Whittle Communications and Avenues: The World School as well as Edison Learning.
The School’s philosophy and curriculum are based upon best practices from countries around the world, with an emphasis on personalized education, experiential learning, and immersive language and cultural knowledge acquisition. From the start, The Whittle School will open a second campus in Shenzhen, China, and over the next 10 years will open campuses in leading cities around the globe. As one school with many campuses, Whittle is a modern, innovative concept that will develop smart, engaged, well-rounded and globally-minded students sought after by top universities and colleges.
Amongst the different Whittle educational offerings, there will be a strong boarding component for Upper School with both full boarding and 5-day boarding options. This allows families to make the best choices for them and their students, balancing school and family life. The campus, a collaborative learning hub, will open in September 2019 at the former Intelsat building in Washington, DC, offering students access to the City as a valued educational tool. For 5-day boarding students, transportation will be offered to and from the School on a weekly basis.
To learn more about The Whittle School, please visit our website at https://www.whittleschool.org.
You may also contact Matthew Pohl, Director of Enrollment Strategy, [email protected], 646-851-5260.
No. VIRGINIA OPEN HOUSE: Sunday November 18, 4pm, Ritz Carlton, Tysons
Come meet members of our leadership team and learn about our vision for a modern, global preschool-Grade 12 school with campuses around the world, launching in Fall 2019 in Washington, D.C. and Shenzhen, China.
(Updated at 1 p.m.) Amazon’s arrival in Crystal City and Pentagon City seems set to completely transform developments already planned for the area.
The company’s big announcement today (Tuesday) that it would split its planned second headquarters between Arlington and New York City represents a major windfall for JBG Smith, the largest property owner across the newly dubbed “National Landing” — an area including Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. The developer had long sought to fill thousands of square feet of vacant office space in the neighborhoods, much of which will now presumably be occupied by Amazon’s 25,000 workers attached to the project.
But renderings posted online suggest that JBG will also tweak developments already in progress to suit the tech giant’s needs. The new “NationalLanding.com” offers a virtual tour of the area, and promises that the developer “intends to accelerate the planning, entitlement, and development of several projects” to meet Amazon’s arrival in the area — the company expects to occupy anywhere from 4 million to 8 million square feet in office space over the life of the new headquarters.
JBG Smith writes on the site that it currently controls 6.2 million square feet of existing office space in the area, with another 7.4 million of “additional development opportunities in National Landing, excluding Amazon’s proposed land purchase.” In all, the company is planning the following moves in the area, from a press release:
- Lease approximately 500,000 square feet of existing office space at 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street, and 1770 Crystal Drive.
- Purchase Pen Place and Met 6, 7, 8 land in JBG SMITH’s Future Development Pipeline with Estimated Potential Development Density of up to 4.1 million square feet. JBG SMITH has the right to time the expected closings of the land parcel sales to facilitate 1,031 exchange opportunities.
- Engage JBG SMITH as its development partner, property manager, and retail leasing agent.
- Commence predevelopment and planning of the first office building in 2018, with construction expected to begin in 2019.
The new renderings include a “multimodal transit hub” located near the pedestrian bridge linking Crystal City to Reagan National Airport, which Amazon has volunteered to help build as part of the project. It’s unclear where exactly the hub will be located.
The renderings also center around a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station, an amenity long sought by the county but once seemed out of reach due to funding constraints. JBG Smith is currently working on a redevelopment of the area dubbed “Central District,” and those plans included a controversial proposal to build retail space over the new Metro entrance. New sketches suggest that the developer may push ahead with those plans, now that the construction of the second entrance is assured.
“The public and private sectors are currently investing billions of dollars in the National Landing area to improve infrastructure, expand on entertainment and retail options, enhance public spaces and introduce new/repositioned buildings,” Tracy Gabriel, president and executive director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, wrote in a statement. “We believe that Amazon will help accelerate the transformation underway in Virginia’s largest walkable downtown, further growing and diversifying Crystal City’s economy, bolstering our already strong tech presence and attracting additional companies and investment.”
Also on the way for the area is a helipad, according to the county’s memorandum of understanding with the company.
“Arlington County staff will assist Amazon in its efforts to obtain required County Board, commonwealth and federal approvals for the development, construction, and operation (at the company’s expense)” of the project, according to the memo.
Worker Rescued from Memorial Bridge — A man working on the Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project was injured this morning and transported to the hospital via fireboat and then ambulance. The injuries were reported to be non-life-threatening. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
More Worries About Real Estate Prices Post-Amazon — “Amazon’s possible arrival in Northern Virginia and Queens, New York, has already sent shockwaves through surrounding real estate markets. Mara Gemond, a longtime Arlington, Virginia, realtor… Crystal City — until news broke that Amazon might be splitting its 50,000-employee second headquarters between there and Long Island City in New York. All of a sudden, the two-bedroom condo in a 1980s-era building that had been sitting on the market for nearly three months with no offers, even after a price cut, had a flood of interest.” [CNN, Washington Post, ARLnow]
Metro Closure Causes DCA Gridlock — The closure of the Crystal City and National Airport Metro stations prior to Friday’s evening rush hour, amid a rush to get out of town for the holiday weekend, caused gridlock around the airport, the GW Parkway, Route 1 and other nearby roads. Arlington County Police were dispatched to the area to help with traffic control. [NBC 4, Twitter, Greater Greater Washington]
Chamber Welcomes Amazon — Among those welcoming Amazon to Arlington is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “This addition to Arlington is a significant step toward enhancing and maintaining the strength of Arlington’s commercial sector and diversifying our economic base,” the Chamber said in a statement. [Arlington Chamber]
Restrictions for West Glebe Road Bridge Traffic — “A routine inspection of the bridge on West Glebe Road at South Four Mile Run has uncovered deterioration, which will require a vehicle weight restriction of 5-tons, and closure of the sidewalks in both directions. Because safety is the priority, the restrictions are effective immediately.” [Arlington County]
Marymount U Prez Dances with Local Stars — “Dr. Irma Becerra has many accomplishments to her name. Dancing is not one of them, but D.C.’s Dancing Stars Gala could soon change that. Marymount University’s new president is one of eight local celebrities who will vie for $10,000 [this past] Saturday when the annual fundraising competition is held at The Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.” [Fairfax News]
Arlington Resident Buys Airline — Sanford Rederer, a resident of North Arlington and Sarasota, Florida, has purchased Florida-based Island Air Charters. [Business Observer]
Pictured above: Crystal City as it once was — building and wayfinding sign in 2011 (Flickr pool photo by Chris Reed)
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) After months of breathless speculation, Amazon has made it official and announced that it is coming to Arlington — but the county isn’t alone in winning the tech giant’s second headquarters.
The tech giant announced today (Tuesday) that it will split its $5 billion investment for an “HQ2” between Crystal City and Long Island City in Queens, confirming earlier reporting of the last-minute switch. Nashville will also receive 5,000 jobs as part of the arrangement.
A press conference has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Pentagon City.
Amazon will now set up roughly half of the new headquarters on a site in Crystal City a bid championed by state and county officials, as well as JBG Smith, the region’s biggest real estate owner.
In a press release, Amazon dubbed the site as “National Landing.” A county spokeswoman tells ARLnow that “National Landing” refers to the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area, which together will make up the footprint of Amazon’s local campus. A map included in the announcement also refers to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as “Downtown Arlington.”
More from Amazon’s announcement:
As part of Amazon’s new headquarters, Virginia and Arlington will benefit from more than 25,000 full-time high-paying jobs; approximately $2.5 billion in Amazon investment; 4 million square feet of energy-efficient office space with the opportunity to expand to 8 million square feet; and an estimated incremental tax revenue of $3.2 billion over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon’s investment and job creation.
Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $573 million based on the company creating 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000 in Arlington. This includes a workforce cash grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia of up to $550 million based on $22,000 for each job created over the next 12 years. Amazon will only receive this incentive if it creates the forecasted high-paying jobs. The company will also receive a cash grant from Arlington of $23 million over 15 years based on the incremental growth of the existing local Transient Occupancy Tax, a tax on hotel rooms.
The community and Amazon employees will benefit from the Commonwealth investing $195 million in infrastructure in the neighborhood, including improvements to the Crystal City and the Potomac Yards Metro stations; a pedestrian bridge connecting National Landing and Reagan National Airport; and work to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1 over the next 10 years. Arlington will also dedicate an estimated $28 million based on 12% of future property tax revenues earned from an existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for on-site infrastructure and open space in National Landing.
“This is a big win for Virginia – I’m proud Amazon recognizes the tremendous assets the Commonwealth has to offer and plans to deepen its roots here,” said Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia. “Virginia put together a proposal for Amazon that we believe represents a new model of economic development for the 21st century, and I’m excited to say that our innovative approach was successful. The majority of Virginia’s partnership proposal consists of investments in our education and transportation infrastructure that will bolster the features that make Virginia so attractive: a strong and talented workforce, a stable and competitive business climate, and a world-class higher education system.”
“We are proud that Amazon has selected National Landing for a major new headquarters. This is, above all, a validation of our community’s commitment to sustainability, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, and diversity,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “The strength of our workforce coupled with our proximity to the nation’s capital makes us an attractive business location. But Arlington’s real strength is the decades of planning that have produced one of the most vibrant, civically engaged communities in the world. Those plans have paved the way for this investment, and we look forward to engaging the Arlington community about Amazon’s plans and how we can grow together.”
JBG Smith owns huge swaths of property throughout the neighborhood, which was long thought to be a key factor in Arlington’s favor. The company has launched a new website in conjunction with the announcement: Nationallanding.com.
Crystal City’s high office vacancy rate, long a thorn in the side of county leaders that will now be alleviated virtually overnight, also provided plenty of open space for the company to work with as it plans a new campus.
While communities across the country were vying to earn HQ2 as part of an unusual public bidding process, the D.C. region was widely viewed as a favorite to earn Amazon’s new headquarters after the company listed Northern Virginia, Maryland and D.C. among its 20 finalists in January. Even still, the company announced late in the process that it would seek to split HQ2, noting that executives didn’t believe that any of the finalists had enough “tech talent” to fill the contemplated 50,000 jobs for the new offices.
Arlington was long viewed as a particularly strong contender after the county submitted both the Crystal City site and locations along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for consideration. Amazon officials subsequently toured those locations this spring, and even linked many of its employees to a particular ARLnow article about the county’s environmental accolades.
With the decision finally made, Arlington officials will now have to grapple with the impact of the company’s arrival — especially now that the company won’t be bringing quite the same investment as it originally promised.
The rosiest estimates of HQ2’s impact suggest the company will create a “prosperity bomb” in the region, offering tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and filling up the coffers of local governments.
But many critics have spent months warning that HQ2’s arrival could exacerbate many of the problems already plaguing Arlington. They reason the arrival of so many wealthy Amazon workers could cause housing prices to skyrocket and make it virtually impossible for low-income people to afford to live in the area, or even strain the region’s already challenged transit systems.
Others still worry that the county has offered a series of lucrative tax breaks and cash incentives to the company, dampening whatever economic benefits HQ2 may offer — the county has steadfastly refused to offer any details of its offer to Amazon, as the company has sworn HQ2 bidders to secrecy. There’s also no telling if the county and state might look to revise its incentive offer, now that Amazon has split up HQ2.
County officials have long insisted that they’re prepared to meet these challenges, however, and with Apple still weighing its own move to Arlington, it seems quite likely that such conversations will dominate their attention in the coming months.
Arlington County and the City of Alexandria trumpeted the selection in a joint press release issued shortly after Amazon’s announcement.
The press release says Virginia Tech will now establish an “Innovation Campus” in Alexandria near the new headquarters, while Arlington and Alexandria public schools will “have access to new resources related to computer science education, to be made available statewide” and George Mason University’s campus in Virginia Square will expand. Also funded thanks to Amazon’s arrival: the long hoped-for second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station and a new High Line-like pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport.
Amazon.com, Inc, announced this morning that it has chosen Arlington County to establish a major new headquarters. Arlington and the City of Alexandria, after working together for the last year in a unique and unprecedented regional partnership, are announcing that Amazon will locate in National Landing, a newly branded neighborhood encompassing parts of Pentagon City and Crystal City in Arlington and Potomac Yard in Alexandria. The Commonwealth’s announcement also includes news of a new partnership with Virginia Tech to develop a revolutionary Innovation Campus to fill demand for high-tech talent in National Landing and beyond. […]
Specifically, for the National Landing proposal, Arlington and Alexandria partnered with property owner and developer JBG SMITH to present Amazon with a compelling 150-acre site – a mixture of existing vacant buildings and developable land – seamlessly connected by a robust transportation network, including three Metrorail stations and a commuter rail station, walking and biking paths. The National Landing proposal offers Amazon the opportunity to establish a major headquarters in a thriving, urban environment. The proposal to Amazon that was crafted by Arlington, Alexandria, JBG SMITH, VEDP, and others can be found online.
“We are incredibly pleased to partner with Amazon on their new headquarters,” said JBG SMITH CEO, Matt Kelly. “Their selection of National Landing is a fantastic outcome for the entire region and reflects the close collaboration between the JBG SMITH team and our partners in Arlington, Alexandria and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Amazon’s new home at National Landing builds on the strength and history of an established community with nearly 12 million square feet of existing office space and more than 13,000 residential units that also has exciting growth potential. JBG SMITH owns 6.2 million square feet of existing office space and 2.4 million square feet of existing multifamily, and controls 7.4 million square feet of estimated potential density in National Landing, excluding Amazon’s proposed land purchase. Amazon’s initial development plans focus on JBG SMITH-owned properties in Crystal City and Pentagon City in Arlington County, while the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be developed in the Alexandria portion of the National Landing site. Amazon’s new headquarters and related investments are generally consistent with the communities’ adopted growth plans for the National Landing area in both Arlington and Alexandria, which envision high-density, mixed-use, transit-oriented development.
Virginia Tech Innovation Campus
In Alexandria’s portion of Potomac Yard, Virginia Tech and the Commonwealth intend to provide funding for an Innovation Campus near Amazon’s new headquarters to build a graduate campus in the southern portion of National Landing, specifically targeted at tech talent that will benefit all companies in the Commonwealth. The campus will house master’s and doctoral level programs that dovetail with the industry’s most pressing demands. Degree programs and research opportunities will focus on computer sciences and software engineering, while offering specializations in high-demand areas, including data sciences; analytics and collective decisions; security and the Internet of Things; and technology and policy. The campus will build on the growing innovation economy in Alexandria and Arlington, anchored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and now private sector companies like Amazon.
“Launching the Innovation Campus is a watershed moment for Virginia Tech and a great day for the Commonwealth we are committed to serve,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said. “As Virginia’s land-grant institution, we stepped up to claim our role of driving economic development by leveraging our strengths in technology and engineering and building on our strong partnerships in Washington, D.C. The Innovation Campus will bring together the highest-caliber students, world-class faculty, smart ideas and forward-thinking companies.”
Investments in the Community
K-12 and Higher Education: As part of the Commonwealth’s increased investment in the tech-talent pipeline, Arlington and Alexandria public schools will have access to new resources related to computer science education, to be made available statewide. They include: ongoing professional development for current and future teachers; high-quality curriculum and related resources; summer and after-school programming for students; and meaningful career exposure and work-based learning opportunities in high-demand fields.
George Mason University’s Arlington campus will also grow, taking advantage of new performance-based investments for new master’s degree programs in computer science and related fields.
Transportation: A review of available transportation services, facilities and associated capacity indicate that regional and local transit systems have significant unused capacity, even during peak travel periods. As a very transit-focused employer, Amazon is expected to help fill that existing capacity, with most employees utilizing public transit, walking, biking or carpooling each day.
To manage this planned growth, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are investing $570 million in transportation projects, including rail connections, transit facilities, multi-modal streets and transportation technology serving the site, all of which were planned as part of Board- and Council-approved long-term Capital Improvement Plans. Arlington and Alexandria are also actively pursuing additional funding opportunities to advance investments in this corridor.
To augment these local investments, the Commonwealth will invest up to $195 million of non-general fund money in new or expanded transportation projects to improve mobility in the region, including an additional entrance to the Crystal City Metro station and a south entrance off of Potomac Avenue to the new Potomac Yard Metro station. Other projects include improvements to U.S. Route 1 in Arlington County, a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport and a transitway expansion supporting Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard in both Alexandria and Arlington. Additional funding would be available if Amazon creates more than 25,000 jobs.
Housing: Amazon’s choice to locate in National Landing comes as the region is intensifying its efforts to increase housing capacity and making more investments in affordable housing. Arlington and Alexandria already have strong existing commitments to funding and supporting efforts to create, protect and preserve affordable and workforce housing. As part of this project announcement, both communities will fund affordable housing, workforce housing and public infrastructure, bolstered by revenues generated from Amazon’s new presence in their communities. Combined, the communities project investment of at least $150 million over the next decade, resulting in the creation and preservation of 2,000 to 2,400 affordable and workforce units in and around the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Columbia Pike areas and throughout Alexandria.
Arlington’s proposed direct financial incentive to Amazon is an annual pay-for-performance grant tied to the company meeting 6 million square feet in office occupancy targets over the initial 15 years with a value of approximately $23 million. The incentive comes from a percentage of the new incremental revenue generated by the County’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which is a tax paid by tourists and business travelers on hotel rooms or other paid lodging.
In addition to direct financial incentives, Arlington County also proposed using a portion of new incremental revenue generated by Amazon’s arrival within the existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) area to make strategic infrastructure investments in and around National Landing. The estimated new TIF revenue is projected to be $28m over a 10-year period.
The Arlington County Board will vote on a final incentive agreement no earlier than February 2019 and will follow its regular public engagement and hearing process for development decisions.
Immediately following Tuesday morning’s announcement, local lawmakers started issuing statements on the selection.
From Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.):
As a former Governor, now Senator, but also as a former technology executive, I’m really excited about the potential Amazon offers not only to Northern Virginia but the whole capital region and the entire Commonwealth. We’ve seen that major investments like these can bring not only thousands of direct jobs but also lead to job growth in other industries. As we welcome Amazon’s new investment in Virginia, we must commit to implementing this announcement in a way that will benefit the whole region and all of the Commonwealth.
From Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.):
I’m thrilled that our skilled workforce helped persuade Amazon to bring a major new headquarters and its tens of thousands of jobs to Virginia. Congratulations are in order to Governors McAuliffe and Northam and the local leaders who worked to ensure that this deal includes investments in our education and transportation infrastructure.”
While serving as Governor of Virginia, Kaine focused on job training and education and by the end of his term leading publications ranked Virginia the best state to raise a child and the Best State for Business. Kaine has been a vocal advocate for Amazon bringing HQ2 to Virginia.
From a lengthy press release issued by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):
Amazon’s announcement that it will bring half of its HQ2 to Arlington is a validation of a generation’s worth of work to make northern Virginia an economic engine of the nation.
The Northern Virginia of my youth was a bedroom suburb of the nation’s capital. The Northern Virginia of today is an economic and cultural dynamo, on the leading edge of the technology revolution that is bettering lives around the world. This transformation involved leadership by all sectors — business, higher education, government, and community. […]
Congratulations to Governor Northam, and all my fellow Virginians, for winning a robust national competition. And congratulations to Amazon for selecting a very special community and region, ripe with diversity and promise.
From Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D):
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) November 13, 2018
Photo courtesy Crystal City BID
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) As Arlington and the D.C. area anxiously await the “imminent” announcement that Amazon will be coming to Crystal City, a media staging area is being set up in Pentagon City.
The staging area is on the 1300 block of S. Eads Street, where ARLnow previously saw a large event space being set up then taken away. There is also a police presence on the site and temporary no parking zones — from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today — nearby.
So far no press conferences have been announced. A press conference is scheduled at the site at 1:30 p.m.
(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) Amazon will be announcing its “HQ2” plans as soon as Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.
The paper says New York City and Crystal City will be chosen. Per the WSJ:
Amazon is dividing the second headquarters evenly between New York’s Long Island City and Arlington County’s Crystal City neighborhoods, which are both located directly across from the major city centers… Amazon executives concluded it could recruit more of the best tech talent if it spread the office over two locations. And by halving the size, Amazon would help ease potential issues with housing, transit and other areas where adding tens of thousands of workers could cause problems.
Citing anonymous sources, the New York Times, NPR and others have also previously reported that Crystal City will be one of two destinations for Amazon, as the company splits HQ2 between two cities.
Thus far no Amazon-related press conferences have been scheduled in Arlington.