Apartment Project Feels ‘Amazon Effect’ — “The Amazon real estate effect in Northern Virginia is being felt from home sales to new development. Nearly two years ago, the owners of Crystal House Apartments applied to add a building and 252 units to the Crystal City Metro-proximate community. Now, that vision has more than tripled in size.” [UrbanTurf, Bisnow]
Arlington Has Low Home-School Rate — “Arlington has the lowest rate of home-schooled students in Northern Virginia, according to new state data. A total of 0.5 percent of Arlington students were home-schooled in the 2017-18 school year, according to a new jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction compilation by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).” [InsideNova]
Lots of Green Space for Future H-B Woodlawn Home — Despite a relatively small footprint and a vertical profile — rising five stories above grade — the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn will have plenty of green space for students. “Standing on top and looking down, you will think it’s a hillside meadow, not a series of roofs,” said Arlington Public Schools’ design and construction director. [ENR Mid-Atlantic]
Champagne Lounge With a View in Rosslyn — “The Observation Deck at CEB Tower will debut a new Champagne-centric bar [this] week, inviting visitors to to sip bubbly from the area’s first 360-degree public observatory.” [Eater]
Sunday Funday Moves to G.O.A.T. — The popular and sometimes rowdy Sunday Funday festivities that took place at the now-closed A-Town Bar and Grill have been moved to A-Town’s sister bar The G.O.A.T in Clarendon. [Instagram]
Arlington Spots for Mocktails — Need to go sans alcohol to meet some of your New Year’s resolutions? Some of the best mocktails in Arlington can be found at spots like Fyve Restaurant at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton; Green Pig Bistro and Ambar in Clarendon; and the new Punch Bowl Social in Ballston. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The county’s top economic development official has already bounced around the Washington region a bit over the course of his career, serving in similar roles in D.C., Prince George’s County and even Maryland’s state government. But few of the deals Hoskins struck in those jobs could hope to rival the agreement he worked to forge with Amazon, in terms of both size and controversy.
Accordingly, it might seem perfectly reasonable if Hoskins wanted to walk away from the county after pulling off such a mammoth transaction — or perhaps parlay his Amazon-sized success into a bigger payday elsewhere.
But even with Jeff Bezos and company set to head to Arlington, Hoskins says he isn’t going anywhere. Though the tech giant plans to invest billions in the county, he believes there are still plenty of challenges left in Arlington that he hopes to tackle.
“Frankly, I want to see this through,” Hoskins told ARLnow. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity… because we still have an 18 percent office vacancy rate. When we get down to a 10 or 12 percent vacancy rate, then I’ll consider leaving.”
Like many other county officials in recent weeks, Hoskins emphasizes that the 25,000 workers Amazon plans to move to Crystal City and Pentagon City will only help replace the similar number of employees who’ve left the area in recent years, as federal agencies and the military have headed elsewhere.
That means he sees plenty of room for Arlington to keep adding jobs, and he fully expects that the county’s economic development arm will have a key role in guiding that process.
“We’re expecting 25,000 jobs of Amazon, but at least another 25,000 over the same 10-, 12-year time period from all the supportive services or ancillary services to the company,” Hoskins said. “That means a few years from now, we could be down to a 12 percent office vacancy rate if everything goes right. But that takes hard work.”
Hoskins says it certainly helps to have a “seal of approval from the largest tech company in the world” in bringing in other high-tech businesses too. Though he’s waiting until the county and state formally sign off on the Amazon deal — a process that could wrap up as soon as February — to start courting anyone too hard, Hoskins would also concede that luring other Silicon Valley firms will be a key part of his strategy going forward.
“We’re going to be looking for companies that start deciding, like Amazon, that they need an eastern seaboard location,” Hoskins said. “And many of those are west of the Mississippi.”
He envisions branding Arlington as the next Silicon Valley, perhaps “the Silicon Valley on the Potomac,” a shift in thinking that he believes the county kicked off years ago that contributed to its successful courtship of Amazon. Part of that work will be marketing Arlington’s ever-growing tech workforce, another key piece of the pitch county and state officials made to Amazon.
For instance, Hoskins expects that the state’s investments in new, tech-focused higher education efforts in the area (including a new Virginia Tech “Innovation Campus” in Alexandria and a beefed up computer science program at George Mason’s Virginia Square campus) will send tens of thousands of graduates with high-tech degrees into the workforce in the coming years. And he hopes that other local universities will follow that lead, even if they weren’t included in the Amazon deal.
“UVA’s [Darden School of Business] opened up an MBA campus right in Rosslyn, and I know they’re probably sitting there thinking, ‘Could we raise some money in the tech arena and build on some state funds here?'” Hoskins said. “And I think we have a whole host of other universities that will come on board.”
Of course, the quality of Arlington’s public schools were another factor that lured Amazon to the county, and Hoskins expects school officials to play a role in readying students to potentially enroll in those programs.
“I know our schools are already having conversations with George Mason University and others to see what kind of cross-training they can set up to take advantage of these resources,” Hoskins said.
Yet Hoskins says that his intense focus on the future doesn’t take away the pride he feels in having helped pull off such a massive deal in Arlington. Though community concerns abound about the tech giant’s potential impact on everything from the housing market to traffic, Hoskins believes the positives for the county were enough to leave him practically giddy when he first heard the news that Amazon tabbed Arlington.
“I was exhilarated, are you kidding me?” Hoskins said. “It was 14 months of pins and needles… I’ve got a 91-year-old mother, and she told me she was delighted to hear about this. And it took her a long time to even understand what I do for a living, so that means the world.”
Photo via @ArlChamberVA
Crystal City’s bevy of aging office buildings have long been in need of a makeover, and Arlington officials hope Amazon’s arrival will spur some big development changes in the neighborhood.
The tech giant itself will be responsible for a major transformation of the newly christened “National Landing” all on its own, of course. Amazon will start off by leasing space from property owner JBG Smith in Crystal City, with plans to fully renovate those office buildings, and even construct its own facilities on various plots of land in Pentagon City.
And while the company could one day control as much as 8 million square feet of office space in the area, there are plenty of other buildings dotting Crystal City’s landscape that Amazon won’t touch. JBG alone controls another 6.2 million square feet of office space throughout the neighborhood, including a whole variety of buildings constructed decades ago, when Crystal City was primarily a home for the military and federal agencies.
It’s those structures that Arlington leaders are most anxious to see receive a refresh, in order to lure even more businesses to the area. While Amazon’s new headquarters will put a huge dent in the neighborhood’s office vacancy rate, officials say the county still has plenty of work left to do in that department.
“Many of these buildings were purpose-built for the federal government or overflow from the Pentagon,” Anthony Fusarelli, the assistant director of the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, said during a question-and-answer session live-streamed on Facebook last night (Monday). “As the economy diversifies, the building stock needs to diversify with it.”
Sally Duran, the chair of the county’s Economic Development Commission, pointed out that business leaders have been strategizing ways to orchestrate such changes in Crystal City for years now, dating back to the immediate aftermath of the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure process. But the county lacked any sort of driving factor to spur that change, she noted, making Amazon’s selection of the area quite welcome news indeed.
Fusarelli also observed that many Crystal City property owners, including JBG, were already nearing a critical decision point about how to handle the future of their buildings. Given the age of the structures, he said owners faced one of just a few options: sell their holdings, “reinvest and try to cary the building forward for 10 to 20 more years,” or simply “demolish and redevelop.”
With Amazon about to bring 25,000 jobs to the area, he expects to see plenty of developers choosing the third option.
“We may have these 40-, 50-year-old buildings come off the line and be replaced with residential buildings, or other uses,” Fusarelli said. “We may see the vacancy rate go down over time to the extent that additional activity in this area will lead to redevelopment and changing uses.”
Even before Amazon’s announcement, Fusarelli says the county was projecting an additional 20 million square feet of development in the area he dubbed “the Route 1 corridor,” rather than the controversial “National Landing” moniker, through 2025. Accordingly, he expects that the county will be ready to embrace all that new change, rather than be overwhelmed by it.
“Over the past 14 months, we’ve been evaluating the area and making sure it could manage that growth, and it could,” said Christina Winn, director of Arlington Economic Development’s Business Investment Group. “It was planned for that.”
Of course, there’s plenty of community consternation around just how the area will cope with Amazon-related growth, with apprehension surrounding everything from the company’s impact on transportation networks to home prices.
But county officials remain adamant that the slow pace of the tech giant’s arrival, to be stretched out over the better part of 12 years or so, will help Arlington adjust to the changes gradually. The company plans to add only a few hundred workers in the near term, then bring on about 2,000 staffers a year through 2030.
Officials also stressed that the county will review every step of the assembly of the new headquarters. The County Board will vote no earlier than February on the outlines of the state’s proposed deal with Amazon; then, the company will submit individual applications for each new piece of construction it’s planning, most of which will require the Board’s scrutiny.
Fusarelli says the county doesn’t expect to see any applications from Amazon until early next year, projecting a first Board vote on new Amazon developments by mid-2019 at the earliest.
“We don’t expect a flood of Amazon-specific building proposals in the first quarter of next year,” Fusarelli said. “What we do expect is a gradual submission of projects over time that align well with their need to house workers.”
Amazon’s new headquarters will fundamentally transform Arlington in the years to come, but county officials are hoping to reassure residents that the area won’t change in the blink of an eye.
Instead, Arlington leaders are painting the arrival of the tech giant — and the 25,000 workers set to someday occupy its new office space — as a development that will shape the county’s economic landscape over time, rather than overnight. And, they hope, that will give the county time to prepare accordingly.
“This is not going to feel like a tsunami of new people on our streets or kids in our schools,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol said during a question-and-answer session live-streamed on Facebook last night (Tuesday).
Critics of the county’s courtship of Amazon have long feared the impact that thousands of highly paid workers arriving in the region could have on everything from home prices to school overcrowding. But Arlington leaders have often countered that the region is experiencing dramatic growth at the moment, and seems set to see even more in the future, meaning that Amazon’s arrival might not seem especially out of place.
Now that Jeff Bezos and company have made the big decision, targeting Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard for half of its proposed second headquarters, officials remain confident in those predictions. Cristol, for instance, noted Tuesday that the tech company could draw as much as 15 to 20 percent of its new workforce from current county residents.
“They located here because they want access to the tech talent we have here,” Cristol said.
As for the rest of the new Amazon staffers, Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins pointed out that they won’t be arriving on the county’s doorstep next week, or even next month. Under the terms of the company’s proposed deal with the state, Amazon would only hire about 400 workers for the new Arlington campus next year.
That number will ramp up sharply over time, however, leaping to 1,180 new staffers in 2020 and then 1,964 workers the year after. But Hoskins noted that the pace of change would’ve been even more dramatic had Amazon stuck with its original plan to house all 50,000 workers in one city, rather than splitting “HQ2” between Arlington and New York City.
“After February, when the deal is set to be approved [by the Board], you’ll see the first employees arriving,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “Beyond that, I don’t think people will see a lot different in first year… It’ll become more noticeable a few years out.”
For parents nervous about how many kids those new workers will bring with them, Cristol is also optimistic that the school system will be able to handle the influx of students. She expects that the county will only see two to three additional students in each school per year, and that’s only when Amazon fully ramps up hiring in the coming years.
Depending on how the county is calculating that figure, such an increase would work out to anywhere from 70 to 105 new students enrolled in Arlington Public Schools each year, at a time when the school system is already struggling with severe financial pressures to match rising enrollment.
“That’s not nothing,” Cristol said. “But compared to the 500 students per year that APS is already adding, it’s really manageable.”
But Schwartz noted that, under the county’s revenue-sharing agreement with APS, roughly half of the tax revenue that Amazon generates will flow into the school system’s coffers. He estimates a $315 million increase in tax revenue over the life of the county’s deal with Amazon, which beats county projections by about $160 million between now and 2030.
Of course, Schwartz says the county will still feel some pain in the short term. Though Amazon represents a tax windfall for Arlington, he warned that it will take time for the county to feel the benefits — and that means that painful measures like layoffs, service reductions and tax increases remain on the table for the county’s new budget.
“We’ve been through several difficult budget years and we have a couple more to bridge to where we’re going to be,” Schwartz said.
Cristol acknowledged that there are some “difficult short-term conversations” on the way in the county, particularly as Arlington tries to prepare for Amazon’s impact without the tax revenues it needs to fund necessary projects and services.
But she also pledged to be open to having those difficult discussions. Some Amazon skeptics have already called on the Board to hold multiple town halls focused on Amazon alone, and Cristol said officials plan to do so, and more.
“Let us know if you want us to come meet with your civic group,” Cristol said. “We plan to have many conversations in the community about this.”
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) 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 need 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 for the $23 million, 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 the county recently learned 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, 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.”
The General Assembly will also get the chance to scrutinize the deal, though the exact details of how it might do so remain murky. A commission of both state senators and delegates convened to review major economic development proposals has already lent the deal its approval, but Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) says all 140 state lawmakers will get a chance to vote on the incentive package in next year’s legislative session. Some of the budget amendments to power the proposed investments included in the deal will also go before the General Assembly in the coming years, Hope added.
But Del. Lee Carter (D-50th District), an ardent critic of the company’s potential impact on the region, isn’t holding out much hope that his colleagues will do anything other than simply “rubber stamp” the deal Northam helped broker.
“This deal was put together in shady back rooms, not only out of the public’s sight, but out of the sight of most legislators,” Carter said. “That’s why I think the General Assembly needs to act very differently than it has in the past. We need to actually take the reins back and legislate, instead of letting executive branch do this for us.”
Nestle is now in line to earn half of the $4 million in local grants Arlington promised the company in exchange for moving to Rosslyn, after meeting the county’s targets to qualify for the incentives.
In all, the packaged food giant will receive $12 million in cash and infrastructure improvements after agreeing to relocate its corporate headquarters to 1812 N. Moore Street last February. But the money did come with some strings attached, forcing the company to prove that it will create 748 new jobs with an average annual salary of $127,719 in the county and lease at least 205,000 square feet of office space by the time 2020 arrives.
Only $4 million will come from the county itself, through a “Economic Development Incentive” grant, while a $6 million state grant and $2 million in nearby infrastructure construction round out Arlington’s deal with Nestle. Even still, the grants have become a hot-button political issue around the county, with plenty of observers questioning whether the incentive money might’ve been better spent elsewhere.
So far, at least, the company seems to be holding up its end of the bargain. According to documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request, Nestle has created and maintained 358 new jobs at the Rosslyn office, and has leased 229,000 square feet of space in Rosslyn through June 30. Daniel Nugent, chief legal officer and general counsel for the company, signed a July 18 affidavit attesting to those statistics.
That means the company has well exceeded its office space requirement to earn the grant money, but fell just short of the 374 new jobs it needed to create by the time June 30 rolled around.
However, Cara O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, noted that the company only needed to hit 90 percent of the grant’s requirements to earn the money. Accordingly, the county will now release $2 million to Nestle.
“This year, Nestle achieved 95 percent of its new jobs target and 111 percent of its facility lease target, well above the 90 percent required in each category,” O’Donnell told ARLnow. “They are currently meeting targets as required.”
Josh Morton, a spokesman for Nestle, added that the discrepancy in the job figure is because “the number is always changing as more people are hired in Arlington.” In July and August alone, he says the company hired another 125 employees.
Though she generally remains “skeptical” of such relocation incentives, County Board Chair Katie Cristol thinks “it’s great, but not a surprise to know that Nestle is performing consistently with those expectations.” She attributes that to the work of county staff to “develop an incredibly conservative incentives program where we can see a very clear and really significant return on investment in any incentive we make.”
“We’re not going to do something speculative where we’re giving away the public’s money without a lot of confidence that we’ll see that money return to us well in orders of magnitude beyond what we invested,” Cristol said.
Cristol is well aware what kind of controversy the Nestle incentives kicked up after the Board approved them last year, and how the prospect of similar grants going to Amazon to bring HQ2 to Arlington has roiled the community.
So while she does remain “a little uneasy” about the prospect of “a community like Arlington, that has so much else to offer, seeking to offer cash incentives,” Cristol thinks the Nestle deal does show that these grants can work, if managed properly.
“We’re delighted to have Nestle here, they’ve been a great partner in the community already,” Cristol said. “And in the long term sense… we’re going to be really gimlet-eyed about continuing to look at all over those targets and looking at the return on investment over the life of any deal we put together.”
Nestle will next report back to the county on July 15, 2019 to affirm that it’s indeed created all 748 jobs it promised for the Rosslyn office.
While most ribbon cuttings for new businesses around Arlington tend to be full of pomp and circumstance, SyLearn’s grand opening in a modest Virginia Square office building Wednesday was a family affair.
CEO Jay Chandok, who helped found the new IT training company, busily urged guests to help themselves to a full buffet, as the daughters of Chandok and other staff members snapped pictures of new arrivals with iPhones. One made sure to introduce each visitor to one of her dolls, which she’d given a Hawaiian name: Leilani.
The event, much like SyLearn itself, was relatively small in scale. But Arlington officials say arrival of such businesses in the county is just as important as some of the bigger names economic development staffers are focused on these days.
“People think that they spend all their time on the Amazons and Nestles of the world, and while those are certainly important, this is really the bulk of what they do,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “It’s these small businesses that we hope will become big businesses someday.”
Chandok says the county indeed helped connect him with real estate brokers as he searched for a home for his new business, which was born out of another, similar program he worked on in Arlington.
He landed on a suite in an office building at 3330 Washington Blvd. It sits just behind George Mason University’s Arlington campus, but a bit off the beaten path of the bustling Rosslyn-Ballston corridor — Dorsey expects that certainly helped “lower the cost of entry a bit.”
Chandok hopes to eventually start hosting as many as 200 students each year in the space, with a pool of eight instructors to help them earn certifications on the latest software, or even make a career change and embrace IT.
“We’re looking to help people who aren’t going through four-year institutions, and we’re not bound by the same red tape as they are,” Chandok said. “We can help career changers, or career upgraders. Anyone who’s looking to test the waters and see what else is out there.”
With a legion of federal agencies, not to mention contractors, nearby, Chandok surely won’t lack potential customers. Dorsey also hopes that the county’s school system will consistently “provide a pipeline of talented students” interested in IT, noting that “we can only do so much” when it comes to career education.
Board member Libby Garvey, a longtime School Board member herself, also pointed out that SyLearn could be a perfect fit for the many veterans in Arlington, should they want to build on the tech training they received in the military.
“They have incredible talent that we need to tap into,” Garvey said.
With that sort of pool of would-be students available, Dorsey expects to be attending another ribbon cutting for SyLearn sooner, rather than later.
“As he grows, I want you to find him a bigger space,” he implored the economic development staff in attendance.
(Updated at 2 p.m.) Baby food and products company Gerber is moving its headquarters from New Jersey to Rosslyn and creating 150 jobs, officials announced Monday afternoon (April 16).
The company, a Nestlé subsidiary acquired in 2007, will invest $5 million in the relocation.
The announcement comes a little over a year after Nestlé announced its move to Arlington to a 250,000 square foot office space at 1812 N. Moore Street.
Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement at Nestlé’s Rosslyn headquarters, noting that his excitement in announcing the move partially stemmed from his 30 years as a pediatrician.
“We want to be the most business-friendly state in the country,” said Gov. Northam at the relocation announcement.
A line of elected officials at the state and local level praised the relocation at a brief media event, including Rep. Don Beyer, Del. Rip Sullivan, and County Board Chair Katie Cristol.
Esther Lee, Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce and Trade, who also spoke at the event, was quoted in a press release saying that “gaining the headquarters of the iconic Gerber brand is an important win for Arlington County and the Commonwealth.”
At the event, Cristol presented a key to the county to Steve Presley, Nestlé’s chief financial officer.
More from the press release regarding funding:
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Arlington County Economic Development to secure the project for Virginia. Governor Northam approved a grant in the amount of $862,500 from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist the County with the project. The company is also be eligible to receive a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit.
Funding and services to support the company’s employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
First Responders Say Starting Pay Is Too Low — “Patrick Gorman was just beginning to enjoy his job as an Arlington, Va., police officer when he decided to quit. His wife was pregnant with twins, and they already had a 2-year-old. Even with both working full time, he said, they couldn’t afford to live in the area. Two months out of training, he left the department in February and moved to North Carolina.” [Washington Post]
Large Arlington Contingent for Boston Marathon — Some 77 runners from Arlington are set to compete in the prestigious Boston Marathon a week from today. [InsideNova]
Public Safety Personnel Recognized for Crisis Interventions — “Four Arlington County police officers, two sheriff’s deputies, and a 9-1-1 dispatcher were honored this week for their exemplary work in responding to people in a mental health crisis when on a call or on the job.” [Arlington County]
Spotted: Michael Irvin — Former Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin was spotted hanging out at Champps on Pentagon Row over the weekend. [Twitter]
Rosslyn Hotel Opening Brings Up HQ2 — It’s difficult to find an economic development event in Northern Virginia these days that doesn’t spark discussions of Amazon’s HQ2. At an opening for the new Homewood Suites hotel in Rosslyn, Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins remarked that “you’d have to build, like, 10 more of these” if Amazon were to come to Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]
ARLnow Doesn’t Have a Wikipedia Page — Did you know that despite being around for more than eight years, and being cited as a source in plenty of Wikipedia pages, ARLnow does not have its own page? With Facebook now starting to use Wikipedia as a signaling mechanism for trustworthiness, now would be a great time for someone to finally give ARLnow its own Wikipedia entry. Pretty please?
GGW Boosts Gondola — “While [the proposed Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola] might not be the one, most important transportation project in the whole region, it’s a worthwhile way to help people reach jobs and shops and reduce single-passenger car trips.” [Greater Greater Washington]
USB E-Cig Banned at APS — “Schools in Arlington, Virginia, have specifically banned a new type of e-cigarette that has gained popularity among local teenagers: the Juul.” [WTOP]
‘Collision’ to Showcase N. Va. Tech — Arlington and Alexandria’s economic development agencies last week “announced their collaboration in showcasing the brightest and emerging startups on a national platform next month at one of the fastest growing tech conferences in the country.” [Alexandria News]
Beyer Unhappy With Military Helo Report — “A 400-page U.S. Army report on military-helicopter noise in the Washington area has failed to satisfy the member of Congress who authored legislative language requiring its compilation.” [InsideNova]
Snow Predicted for Arlington Tonight — “Expect a sloppy mix of precipitation that slowly transitions from rain to sleet to perhaps snow between early Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.” [Capital Weather Gang]
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.