Arlington has a lot going for it, including a deep well of talented workers, but the county’s permitting office remains a constant source of business complaints.
Those were two of the major takeaways from the Future of Arlington County event held Thursday at Market Common Clarendon. Organized by online business publication Bisnow, the event brought together economic development officials, developers, attorneys and business owners.
Talent is what has drawn companies like Nestle to Arlington, and what may lure Amazon’s HQ2, said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. He noted that Amazon already has an “innovation center” in Ballston.
“We really want to be the innovation center of the United States,” he said of the county’s economic ambitions. “This is a talent rich target for innovative companies.”
Nestle, he said, had its employee retention rate far exceed expectations as it moved its corporate headquarters from Glendale, Calif. to Rosslyn. The company also received tens of thousands of job applicants for open positions after expecting only hundreds to apply, according to Hoskins.
To help the county continue to attract companies, particularly tech startups, Arlington Economic Development has been sending staff to large conferences, including this weekend’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas.
Other Arlington advantages cited by panelists include walkable, mixed-use communities like Crystal City where people can live and work, and a top notch public school system that helps keep residents with children from leaving the county.
Despite effusive praise for everything Arlington has to offer, there were some negatives. Arlington could use additional cultural amenities — “places people can interact and build community,” in the words of an AED tweet. That point was reinforced by event being held at Market Common Clarendon, adjacent to the vacant former Iota Club space.
Panelists also agreed that Arlington County has plenty of room to improve its permitting process. The process should be “easier and faster in order to attract the most innovative concepts in retails and restaurants,” though the ongoing issues with the permitting process extend from small restaurants to huge developments, panelists said.
One anecdote from a Bisnow recap of the discussion:
Developers, brokers and restaurateurs say the county’s lengthy permitting process has acted as a deterrent for some companies and needs to be improved if Arlington wants to keep up with D.C. and Fairfax County. JBG Smith, Arlington’s largest property owner, last year opened a beer garden in Rosslyn to create more buzz and activity around its properties. It took two years for the landlord to get the beer garden approved by the county, JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy VanHorn said.
Amazon officials visited Crystal City and Rosslyn last week as part of the company’s HQ2 search, multiple sources tell ARLnow.com.
Commercial real estate industry sources say the Crystal City tour happened Wednesday. The Arlington neighborhood, with its vacant office space and robust transportation options, has been mentioned as a frontrunner among D.C. area locales.
Amazon officials also toured Rosslyn, the other Arlington location in the running, we’re told.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell reported today that the Amazon officials toured sites in D.C., Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, having breakfast with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) Wednesday morning and dinner with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower (D) Wednesday night.
The Post report corroborated the tips received last week by ARLnow.com. Arlington County officials, who are under tight non-disclosure agreements, declined to comment on the visit. Another local leader, speaking off the record, suggested that reports of the visit were erroneous.
Would the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system have helped Arlington’s chances had it been built?
Had it been built, the streetcar would have run from Crystal City — which is seen as a strong contender among D.C. area locales — to Columbia Pike and the Skyline area of Fairfax County.
ARLnow.com talked to several insiders to get their take on the hypothetical question.
Several we spoke to, who work in economic development and on transportation issues, said that the streetcar would have been an attractive amenity in the eyes of Amazon. It would have provided a vital, high-frequency link from offices in Crystal City to workforce housing along Columbia Pike, they said.
Also cited as evidence: Amazon’s own support of streetcar system in Seattle.
However, another insider, who works in the works in the commercial real estate industry, doubts that the streetcar would have made much of a difference.
For one, the would-be streetcar is being replaced with enhanced bus service on the Pike and along the Potomac Yard-Crystal City corridor. Also, Crystal City already has one of the highest scores for transportation accessibility among HQ2 contenders, thanks to the frequent bus service, Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines, VRE, commuter buses, the Mt. Vernon Trail and walkability to Reagan National Airport.
In other words, said the insider, the streetcar might have been icing on the cake, but it is unlikely to have moved the needle much on Amazon’s decision. Plus, it is possible that Arlington would have had to contend with some of the streetcar problems currently being experienced by D.C.
Amazon is expected to make its decision later this year. Arlington and Northern Virginia, one insider speculated, is likely to at least be among the top five contenders, and at least one betting market agrees, giving the region the highest odds among the company’s top 20.
Hype has been building over Amazon eying Arlington as a potential destination for its second headquarters, but many may be unaware that the online giant already has offices in the county.
The D.C. region already has a number of Amazon offices and facilities, including a 50,000 square foot office at 4250 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston.
Amazon did not respond to requests for more information about the office, but job listings for the Ballston office include titles like “Event Marketing Manager,” “Partner Development Representative” and “Business Development, DoD.”
Other property leased or owned by Amazon in the region includes a small D.C. headquarters a block away from Union Station and a planned two million square foot data center, reportedly either in Virginia’s Loudon or Prince William counties.
Northern Virginia is a significant data center hub for Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing arm. Data Center Frontier reported the following in November 2017:
Amazon Web Services is believed to operate at least nine data centers in Sterling and nine in Ashburn (with two more under construction) as well seven in Manassas. The company also has two data facilities in Chantilly, and one in Haymarket in Prince William County.
Reston Now, ARLnow’s sister news site, reported last June that Amazon was creating 1,500 jobs in Herndon, Va. at a new “East Coast corporate campus.” Amazon fulfillment centers, meanwhile, employ thousands across the region, including warehouses in Springfield, Va., Rockville, Md., and Baltimore.
The Washington metro region as a whole is gunning for the $685 billion dollar company, but few details have emerged regarding the incentive packages that local governments have crafted to lure Amazon to their jurisdictions.
Arlington County Board Chairman Katie Cristol promised eventual transparency on Arlington’s incentive package in January at a “Meet the Chair” event, according to the Sun Gazette.
Crystal City (in combination with Potomac Yard) is considered strong contender for the Amazon’s new second headquarters, primarily due to the large expanse of undeveloped land, contiguous office space and proximity to Reagan National Airport, D.C. and the Blue and Yellow Metro lines. Rosslyn is also in contention for “HQ2,” as are sites in Alexandria, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Montgomery County, Md. and the District.
The company announced last week that Northern Virginia — including Arlington alongside Alexandria, Loudoun and Fairfax Counties — has made its short-list of 20 finalists from 238 separate proposals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
And while the county is keeping details of its bid close to the vest — like many others in the running — there have been rumblings that both Crystal City and Rosslyn have been floated as good locations for Amazon’s so-called “HQ2.”
Arlington County Board chair Katie Cristol promised to release details of the county’s bid, win or lose, once the process is over.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we discussed the county’s bid for Amazon as well as other topics like the office vacancy rate, the shrinking influence of the federal government and also the future of arts in the county, with Arlington Economic Development director Victor Hoskins.
Two Arlington-based companies are set to receive incentive-based economic development grants as they expand in the county.
Rosslyn-based technology company Higher Logic and Clarendon-based media firm Axios are both in line to receive $60,000 each under the county’s incentive-based Gazelle Grant program. The program, administered through Arlington Economic Development, encourages businesses to move into or stay in Arlington.
Under the terms of the grants, both companies must commit to leasing a certain amount of office space and creating more full-time jobs. If they do not fulfill the terms as of December 31, 2020, they will be required to pay back at least some of the grant.
For its grant, Higher Logic must lease at least 31,000 square feet of office space, maintain its existing 107 full-time jobs and create 133 new full-time positions.
Founded in 2007, Higher Logic had been exploring a new location for its headquarters, having expanded to take up 15,000 square feet by 2015. It will move to 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn and occupy an entire floor of the building on a 10-year lease.
Axios, meanwhile, must lease at lease 15,000 square feet of office space, maintain its existing 60 full-time jobs and create 60 new full-time positions.
Having initially located at the MakeOffices coworking space at the office building at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, Axios is set to expand into the 13th floor at the same address and sign a 10-year lease.
The Arlington County Board will vote on whether to award the grants at its meeting Saturday (January 27). Staff recommended approval of both.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) Amazon has just revealed the top 20 finalists for its second headquarters, and the D.C. area figures in prominently.
Northern Virginia, D.C. and Montgomery County are all included in the list, below. Arlington is not explicitly mentioned but is included within “Northern Virginia,” a county spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow.
“Amazon reviewed 238 proposals from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to host HQ2, the company’s second headquarters in North America,” the company said in a press release. “Today, Amazon announced it has chosen the following 20 metropolitan areas to move to the next phase of the process.”
The list of areas is below.
- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- Boston, MA
- Chicago, IL
- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Indianapolis, IN
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami, FL
- Montgomery County, MD
- Nashville, TN
- Newark, NJ
- New York City, NY
- Northern Virginia, VA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Raleigh, NC
- Toronto, ON
- Washington D.C.
“We’re pleased that Arlington and our partners in Northern Virginia are being considered for Amazon HQ2” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to showcase why Arlington’s excellent workforce, schools, transit options and proximity to the nation’s Capital make it an ideal location for innovative, field-leading businesses.”
In all, 238 communities in North America submitted proposals.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s office sent out a press release touting the top 20 selection Thursday afternoon. An excerpt:
The Northern Virginia proposal included four sites for consideration in Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, and Loudoun County. Northern Virginia is a region positioned at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, comprised of bustling mixed-use developments; 11 Fortune 500 companies; thousands of top technology firms; a top-five talent base; a hub of innovators, entrepreneurs and investors; diverse cultural amenities; and one of the friendliest business climates in the U.S.
“We couldn’t be prouder that Northern Virginia has been selected as one of 20 candidate locations for this historic project,” said Governor Northam. “The Commonwealth’s strong proposals for the Amazon HQ2 project represent an unprecedented level of local and regional collaboration, as well as strong support from Governor McAuliffe’s Administration and leaders in the Virginia General Assembly. Virginia’s outstanding business climate and world-class workforce make our Commonwealth the right place for Amazon to place this key base of operations. We look forward to a continuing partnership with our Northern Virginia communities to show Amazon and job creators all over the world that the Commonwealth is the best place to locate and grow.”
“This is an exciting time for Virginia,” said Victor Hoskins, Director of Arlington Economic Development. “The opportunity to showcase Northern Virginia’s incredible assets, from our top-notch workforce and unparalleled transportation access to our vast residential opportunities and proximity to the nation’s Capital, to Amazon’s top executives is truly a win for all of us, and it would be a win for all of us. We in Arlington look forward to working together with our Northern Virginia partners to demonstrate to Amazon that the Commonwealth is indeed the ideal location for HQ2.”
More from an Amazon press release, after the jump.
IRS Rules on Tax Prepayments — Updated at 12:35 p.m. — Taxpayers hoping to get an additional deduction by prepaying their local property taxes may be out of luck. The IRS ruled late Wednesday afternoon that prepayments can only be deducted in limited circumstances that may not apply to many local jurisdictions — but are, reportedly, applicable to others. The ruling comes after local residents have already prepaid millions in taxes. One tipster told ARLnow.com that there was a line of “probably forty people,” some “paying for up to three years,” at the Arlington County treasurer’s office Tuesday morning. [Washington Post]
Disabled Train Delays VRE — Virginia Railway Express trains were delayed during the morning rush hour due to a disabled freight train north of Crystal City. [Twitter]
Ebbin Proposes Multiple Terms for Va. Gov. — State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-31) has proposed legislation that would take the first step towards allowing governors in Virginia to be elected to two consecutive terms, rather than the current one term limit. [InsideNova]
County Crews Treating Roads for Snow — Arlington County crews were out yesterday pre-treating local roadways with brine, in anticipation of a winter weather event. According to forecasters, the only snow in the forecast is an expected dusting on Saturday. [Twitter, Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
AED and SCORE Partnering — “Beginning this January, BizLaunch and SCORE DC will formally partner on a variety of entrepreneurial workshops from advanced social media training to lead generation to how to become an 8(a) contractor and much more.” [Arlington Economic Development]
Flickr pool photo by Fritz Myer
More on Axios Staying in Arlington — Media startup Axios, which just inked a 10 year lease in Clarendon, is getting a $60,000 performance-based “Gazelle Grant” from Arlington County. It is the fourth company to receive the economic development grant, joining Stardog, VideoBlocks and Phone2Action. “Axios is an excellent example of a Gazelle tech company here in Arlington — fast-growing and a leader in Arlington’s robust media industry,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Axios’ decision to remain here in Arlington as it grows and expands is the true purpose behind the Gazelle incentive program and demonstrates how Arlington’s assets are truly paying off. We are thrilled to continue to work with Axios as a partner in our business community.”
County Giving Away Free Snow Shovel — Updated at 11 a.m. — As part of a social media promotion, the Arlington County Dept. of Environment Services is giving away a free snow shovel, courtesy of Twins Ace Hardware in Courthouse, to one lucky winner who “describe[s] to us [on Twitter] or on DES Facebook your favorite phase of Arlington snow treatment and why.” [Twitter]
Public Invited to Gutshall Swearing-In — “The public is invited to join the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 for the swearing-in of Board Member-elect Erik Gutshall… The ceremony will begin at 5 p.m., and will be followed by a reception outside the Board Room, Room 307 in the County Office Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22201.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Fight Over Aquatics Center Operation Costs — Local budget hawks are worried that operating costs of the new Long Bridge Aquatics Center may take a chunk out of the county budget. The current staff estimate is about $1 million per year of net taxpayer support for operating costs, with a caveat that there may be a ramp-up period with less revenue and thus net higher costs. [InsideNova]
Arlington Honors ‘Fast Four’ Companies — Arlington County on Wednesday honored the fastest-growing local companies in four revenue categories. The companies honored were: Courthouse-based Mind Body Health, digital marketing company Knucklepuck, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics and another Ballston tech-oriented company, Apogee Research. [Arlington County]
Eastern Foundry Expanding Again — Arlington-based startup incubator Eastern Foundry is working with investors to launch Global Foundry, which will “provide international companies entrée to U.S. commercial and government markets, while exposing potential American customers to the innovation taking place overseas.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Arlington Economic Development is hosting Arlington Premiere at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29.
Attendees can “welcome new business owners and network with other key business and community leaders as we celebrate our growing business community,” a blurb on the event, which is sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District, says. Registration is no longer available as the event has reached capacity.
Also at the event, AED will reveal the winners of the Arlington’s First Four competition. The contest honors locally-based businesses that have shown revenue growth over a three-year period.
“The Arlington Premiere is a great way for you to meet our new businesses and strengthen your relationship with other county and community leaders,” AED director Victor Hoskins wrote in an email to the public.
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Says Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) regarding the tax bill that passed the House yesterday: “I am adamantly opposed to the House Republican tax bill, H.R.1. The bill will raise taxes on millions of middle class Americans in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy, and yet still manages to explode the deficit.” [Rep. Don Beyer]
Crystal City Scores 320 Jobs — A Georgetown-based nonprofit is moving much of its staff to a new office in Crystal City, leasing 90,000 square feet and adding 320 jobs in Arlington County. The move was announced by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who approved a $500,000 state grant to assist Arlington with the project. [Virginia Business, Bisnow]
Dems Seek Ways to Defeat Vihstadt — “John Vihstadt, who in 2014 broke the Democratic stranglehold on the Arlington County Board, is ready to go back to the voters in 2018. And Arlington Democrats already are strategizing on how to oust him from office.” [InsideNova]
Charges Dropped Against ‘Laughing Librarian’ — Arlington librarian and Code Pink activist Desirée Fairooz, who was arrested after laughing during the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has had the case against her dropped by the Justice Department. [American Libraries, NPR]
Incident at Kenmore Middle School — A tipster tells ARLnow.com that a Kenmore Middle School student was arrested yesterday afternoon for assaulting a PE teacher. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman, however, did not confirm that an arrest was made, saying: “There was an incident earlier today between a student and a teacher. Staff is following normal disciplinary procedures. But beyond that, we can’t disclose anymore because it is a student matter.”
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Arlington County and seemingly every other place in North America is competing to host Amazon’s second corporate headquarters. But while the odds seem long, Crystal City actually has a good shot at being one of the finalists in Amazon’s search.
The D.C. area is widely regarded as a likely contender for “HQ2,” but sources tell ARLnow.com that the District itself is unlikely to get the headquarters, in part due to high taxes, high real estate costs, a lack of available contiguous space that meets Amazon’s expectations and a lack of congressional representation.
That would leave the areas surrounding D.C. as contenders, and none has the available space and is more accessible to downtown, transit and an airport than Crystal City.
Specifically, commercial real estate sources tell us, Crystal City and Potomac Yard are, in combination, regarded by many as the region’s best chance at landing HQ2. Among the advantages:
- Available contiguous office space and developable land, thanks to BRAC and the development of Potomac Yard.
- Only having to deal with one primary property owner, JBG Smith, which owns much of Crystal City and Potomac Yard. (The company did submit a bid, the Washington Business Journal confirmed this week.)
- Proximity to Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines.
- Close proximity to a major airport, Reagan National.
- An urban “downtown”-like setting with restaurants, hotels, shopping and other amenities within walking distance.
- Congressional representation.
- Low state taxes.
As outlined by Washingtonian, Crystal City also comes with all of the benefits of the D.C. region: ample tech talent and universities nearby, proximity to the federal government, and an easy drive for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos from his new Kalorama mansion. It also comes with some of the negatives: higher real estate costs than smaller cities, high cost of living for workers and thus higher salary costs.
Fresh off of its big win in attracting Nestle’s U.S. headquarters, Rosslyn has also tossed its hat into the HQ2 ring, sources tell us. Rosslyn has many of Crystal City’s pluses but, we’re told, lacks developable space and would be tight quarters for the online giant.
Arlington Economic Development, meanwhile, is keeping its pitch to Amazon close to the vest, publicly revealing few details. Likewise Angela Fox, CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, declined to comment for this article.
Just in time for the holidays, a pop-up store celebrating local businesses and artisans opened today (Wednesday) in Courthouse.
The “Made in Arlington” pop-up shop is on the ground floor of county government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, in the Plaza Library.
It will be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. between now and December 22. And on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., special exhibits will take place in the lobby from local artists.
The shop, which features vendors selling food and gifts, “will help Arlingtonians find that one-of-a-kind gift during the holiday season, while also supporting local businesses and artists,” according to a press release.
The new products are just inside the library entrance, next to the shop’s usual array of Arlington-branded t-shirts, water bottles, chocolate and other items.
From an Arlington Economic Development press release, the vendors include:
- Kingsbury Chocolates sweet confections
- Mira Jean Designs home décor textiles
- Can You Solve Me brain teaser puzzles
- Arlington Weaves hand woven yoga mat straps
- Commonwealth Joe locally roasted coffee
- Dennison Lane hand stamped table linens
- Gary Trusty hand lathed wood topped wine stops
- Ham Smith artist designed t-shirts
And on Thursdays, representatives from the following businesses will be on hand:
“I can tell you that yes, our proposal was submitted, but we’re not releasing any details of specific sites or anything due to competitiveness reasons,” an Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.com.
Generally speaking, there are two Metro-accessible corridors for Amazon to choose from in Arlington: the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and the Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor. In an informal poll asking where Amazon should build its new headquarters, readers gave a slight edge to the R-B corridor.
Amazon is expected to announce the winning city for its “HQ2” at some point in 2018.
— Jonathan O'Connell (@OConnellPostbiz) October 23, 2017