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
Phone2Action is a software-as-a-service company that creates software for organizations to launch campaigns on public policy. That includes helping connect advocates with lawmakers and other decision-makers. It has more than 300 clients.
The firm was originally located at 1401 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, but chose to relocate to 1500 Wilson Blvd in the same neighborhood after outgrowing its previous office space.
The county convinced it to stay through an incentive-based Gazelle Grant, which encourages businesses to move into or stay in Arlington.
Under the terms of the grant, Phone2Action would receive $50,000 in return for leasing at least 13,400 square feet of office space, maintaining its existing 50 full-time jobs and adding another 170 new full-time jobs.
If Phone2Action does not reach 90 percent of its office space target, and has not created at least 50 percent of the new jobs by September 30, 2020, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant. It will use the money to build out its new office, and to defray the costs related to hiring new employees and relocating.
“The company raised $4.6 million in July 2016 and is currently operating within two growth industries: the advocacy industry (growing at 12 percent annually) and the social media/CRM industry (growing at 17 percent annually),” staff wrote. “For all of these reasons, Phone2Action has a large market opportunity for the long term.”
The Arlington County Board will vote on the grant at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
Photos via Phone2Action.
Arlington Pitching Brainpower to Amazon — Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins plans to emphasize Arlington’s highly-educated workforce — 70 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher — in trying to woo Amazon’s new headquarters to the county. [Washington Business Journal]
Animal Control Called for Normal Raccoon — Someone called animal control to report a raccoon “acting strangely” on the 600 block of S. Carlin Springs Drive last week. An animal control officer responded and determined that “its behavior was normal.” [Twitter]
Snowblower Application Deadline Nearing — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation loans out snowblowers to groups of residents, on the condition that they agree to clear sidewalks for neighbors in need, in front of bus stops, etc. The application deadline for this coming winter is Oct. 13. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA
Car Fire on 23rd Street N. — A car was engulfed in flames on 23rd Street N. near the Overlee pool last night just before 6:30 p.m. The fire department arrived on scene and quickly extinguished the fire. [Twitter]
Local Tech Firm Benefiting from Trump — Giant Oak, a low-profile data mining firm based in Clarendon, has been awarded nearly $3 million in contracts from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Donald Trump took office. Most of the contracts are for “social media data analytics.” [Forbes]
Arlington On-Time Grad Rate Dips — “Arlington Public Schools’ on-time-graduation rate dipped slightly in 2017, remaining roughly on par with the state average, according to figures reported Sept. 27. The school system’s on-time-graduation rate of 90.8 percent was down from 91.1 percent a year before and the lowest since 2012.” [InsideNova]
No ‘Code Red’ Days This Year — Summer is over and the D.C. area got through it with no “code red” and fewer “code orange” low air quality days. “We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the region’s air quality thanks to more than a decade of action and coordination at all levels of government,” said Hans Riemer, chair of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee. [MWCOG]
Road Closures for Shirlington Oktoberfest — Campbell Avenue and part of S. Randolph Street in Shirlington will be closed most of the day Saturday for the annual Shirlington Oktoberfest, which runs from noon to 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
County Awarded for Economic Development Efforts — “Arlington Economic Development (AED) has been honored with three Excellence in Economic Development Awards by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The awards were presented at a ceremony earlier this month during the IEDC Annual Conference in Toronto.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Tourists spent more than $3 billion in Arlington County last year, supported more than 25,000 jobs and produced over $200 million in local and state tax revenues, all record highs.
According to figures released by the U.S. Travel Association, tourism in the county generated $3.12 billion in 2016, up 2 percent from the previous year. Arlington continued to lead all Virginia counties in visitor spending, as it has since 2009.
“Tourism continues to be an incredibly vibrant sector in Arlington’s economy,” Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Through jobs, spending at Arlington businesses and tax revenues that support local schools and services, tourism will always be a key to our economic growth.”
The 2016 tourism data is based on spending by visitors from inside the United States, from trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.
“These excellent results are a testament to the strength of our hospitality community and its longstanding collaboration with the County in marketing Arlington to potential visitors,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kate Bates said in a statement. “We are proud of the exceptional work of our hotels, whose dedication to top quality service continues to attract more visitors to our area.”
Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development, said support from the County Board and Chamber for increased investment in tourism promotion has been crucial.
“It has dramatically expanded our ability to showcase Arlington and its businesses to meeting planners, consumers, tour operators and journalists – domestically and around the globe,” Hoskins said in a statement.
Flickr pool photo by Starbuck77
Online retail behemoth Amazon just announced that it is searching for a place to build a second headquarters, and Arlington officials say the county is tossing its hat in the ring.
Amazon is looking to build its “HQ2” in North America, in a metropolitan area with a population over 1 million and room to build up to 8 million square feet of transit-accessible office space in a pedestrian-friendly setting. The new headquarters is expected to come with $5 billion worth of investment and will create up to 50,000 jobs, with an average salary north of $100,000.
Other requirements include being within 30 miles of a population center and no more than 45 minutes away from an international airport.
Arlington, officials say, could fit the bill — and the county is planning to respond to Amazon’s request for proposals.
“Yes, we will be pursuing the opportunity,” said Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell, adding that it is “too early to say which specific locations would be under consideration.”
One potential option is Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood, which has a burgeoning tech scene and an existing plan to build up to 9.7 million square feet of office space, partially through the demolition of aging, vacant office buildings. It is also transit and highway accessible, within walking distance of Reagan National Airport and much of its office space is owned by one company.
Another option is Arlington’s millennial-heavy Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, along the Orange Line. Rosslyn recently scored Nestle’s U.S. headquarters and Ballston has been active in trying to attract tech companies and fill soon-to-be-vacated office space.
O’Donnell declined to say what Arlington’s pitch to Amazon will be, but the transit accessibility and skilled, young professional workforce is likely to be a selling point. Economic incentives and tax breaks from the county and the state will also undoubtedly be involved — Amazon has stated that will be a determining factor.
Competition for the new headquarters will be intense, as the winning jurisdiction will be instantly transformed into a formidable technology center. In the Washington region alone, D.C., Loudoun County and Prince George’s County have already indicated that they will also be pursuing Amazon.
Greens Endorse McCullough — The Arlington Green Party is backing Charles McCullough, an attorney who lives in Nauck, in his run for Arlington County Board. McCullough is “a young progressive who will bring new ideas” to county government, said Green Party head John Reeder. [InsideNova]
Arlington Cops Jump Rope with Kids — The Arlington County Police Department’s Twitter account posted photos of police officers hula hooping and jumping rope with kids at the Gates of Ballston affordable housing complex yesterday. [Twitter]
Rosslyn BID Helped to Woo Nestle — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District played a significant role in helping to convince Nestle to move its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn. In a bit of a departure from typical functions of a business improvement district, the BID “helped coordinate a series of neighborhood tours for Nestle employees weighing whether to move east with their jobs, showcasing the various restaurants and shops in Rosslyn, brokering discounts and exclusives to local restaurants and playing the overall role of ambassador.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Touts State Dept. Lease — “The federal government’s decision to keep its State Department offices in Rosslyn for another 15 years and create a mini campus there is the latest win for what has been an exciting 2017 for Rosslyn and all of Arlington’s business community,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The State Department, long a fixture of Rosslyn’s economic footprint, is keeping its 280,000 square feet in its existing Fort Myer Drive building, and adding 60,000 square feet of space next door at 1200 Wilson Blvd., which it will share with one of its contractors already in that building.” [Arlington County]
Alamo Drafthouse Coming to Crystal City — An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be coming to Crystal City to anchor a residential redevelopment by the JBG Smith. The redevelopment will convert the aging office building at 1750 Crystal Drive to a gleaming glass-and-metal residential building while topping it with a six-story addition. Also planned is an as-yet unsigned “specialty grocer” — think: Trader Joe’s or something similar. [Washington Business Journal]
Home Prices Rise in Arlington — “Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. says the median selling price in Arlington County last month was $613,500, up 15 percent from May of 2016. The change was based on 350 closed sales in Arlington in May.” [WTOP]
County Looking for More Tech Grant Recipients — Arlington Economic Development is looking for more tech companies to lure to Arlington with its $1 million “Gazelle Grant” program. AED is seeking another 8-13 companies that are growing by at least 30 percent over a three year period and are willing to commit to at least a three year lease. [Technical.ly DC]
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
A software startup received a $35,000 grant at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting after relocating to Crystal City last year.
Stardog moved to 1400 Crystal Drive in September, having launched in 2005 in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. CEO Kendall Clark said the company helps businesses bring together internal data from various different sources.
Clark said that while that process could take a large company like Samsung a week and use 30 people to collate all the data on, for example, the purchases of a certain dishwasher in the corridor between D.C. and New York, Stardog’s technology does the job in a matter of seconds.
Stardog already serves the likes of NASA, Oxford University Press and Bosch.
“We’re lucky to have found a bunch of really big customers who have this problem and we solve it well,” Clark said. “It’s not an area that anyone else is really focusing on in our software, so it’s a good combination of need and the software business that we’re looking at, which is a good combination if you can find it.”
Clark said Stardog chose Arlington after its landlord in Shaw tripled the rent, but he said the new Crystal City location has many benefits for employees. With software developers based as far afield as Hawaii and Moscow, Clark said the close proximity to National Airport and Metro helps staff get around easily, while the places where people can eat and live are numerous.
In addition, Clark said, Stardog found Arlington to be a much easier place to do business in as a startup.
“All the business license and low level paperwork that doesn’t really get you any advantage to being in a place — but if you don’t do it it’s bad — it’s lots of stuff like that in Arlington that you can do online,” he said. “In the District, I found for whatever reason there was always some reason I or somebody else had to go to an office in Southeast, struggle with parking and the whole nightmare and then go in and you’re there all day.”
Under the terms of the grant, Stardog must create 70 new full-time jobs at its Arlington office and lease 3,500 square feet of office space. If, by the end of 2019, it has not hit 90 percent of its space target and 50 percent of its employment target, it will have to pay back some or all of the grant.
A staff report that recommended approving the grant said Stardog will use the grant to help build out its new office, relocate its operations and recruit and train new employees.
Clark said the company plans to triple its revenue from last year, and is “on track” right now to do just that. That new revenue will lead to more full-time employees, which will lead to “more people buying houses,” Clark said.
The Arlington County Board will discuss Saturday whether to move forward with a plan to extend a partial real estate tax exemption for Bloomberg BNA.
Bloomberg BNA is a major employer in the neighborhood with 972 employees and a 200,000 square foot office at 1801 S. Bell Street. It signed a deal earlier this year to stay in Arlington, invest $5.5 million and create up to 125 new jobs.
Under the proposal, Bloomberg BNA would be allowed to continue its partial property tax exemption, which expires at the end of this year, for another five years. Arlington first offered BNA an exemption in 2006 to lure it to Crystal City.
The company provides legal, tax, regulatory and business information to professionals who work in fields like the law, taxation and the environment among others.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) approved a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist with the project, which came as Bloomberg BNA was looking to explore its options for future locations in the region. An extended tax exemption is part of the package of incentives.
The exemption took effect in 2008, and costs the county approximately $400,000 a year. Under the terms of the extension, BNA would need to keep at least its current staffing levels and occupied office space. If not, the County Board could withdraw from the exemption or reduce it.
If the County Board moves ahead with staff’s recommendation to advance the plan, a public hearing would be held in July.
Photo via Google Maps
D.C. and Arlington: Tech Towns? — The Greater Washington area has ranked third on a major real estate firm’s list of “Tech Cities 1.0.” The area received high marks for its educated workforce and pace of startup growth. Arlington, meanwhile, is continuing to land tech firms from D.C. and Fairfax County, in part thanks to active outreach and an incentive program from Arlington Economic Development. State incentives helped keep Applied Predictive Technologies in Ballston; the firm has a new office and is now expanding and creating 350 jobs.
Exotic Pet Ban Vote Delayed — The Arlington County Board is expected to delay its consideration of a new exotic pet ban until the fall. The proposal has garnered strong reactions from both sides of the issue, including from the D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute, which is urging the Board to approve the ban. [InsideNova]
Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Gets Architect — Denver-based Fentress Architects has been selected as the designer of the $75 million 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. The center will be built near the intersection of Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike, which is set to be realigned as part of an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. [Washington Business Journal]
DJO Standout in Running for National Recognition — Bishop O’Connell High School softball standout Kathryn Sandercock is in the running for USA Today’s ALL-USA High School Softball Player of the Year. She is currently second in an online poll. Sandercock was also just named to the 2017 Spring All-Met first team. Other Arlington high school students named to the first team All-Met in their sports include three boys soccer and one girls soccer player. [USA Today]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Police Investigating Shooting in DoD Office Building — Arlington County police are investigating a fatal shooting in the Defense Department’s Taylor building, at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The shooting happened this morning and initial reports suggest it was self-inflicted.
Lyon Village Profiled by WaPo — “Close to both the Clarendon and Court House Metro stops on the Orange and Silver lines, Lyon Village is the kind of neighborhood where families know their neighbors, children play and parents can walk almost everywhere.” [Washington Post]
ACPD Recruiting for Citizen’s Police Academy — Applications are currently being accepted for the Arlington County Citizen’s Police Academy. The academy “was designed to create a better understanding and communication between citizens and the police through education.” Applicants are subject to background checks before acceptance into the program, which shows the “inner workings” of the police department. [Arlington County]
Arlington Hosts Travel Trade Show Attendees — Arlington County hopes to get a big tourism and economic boost from its promotional efforts during this year’s U.S. Travel Association IPW trade show, which was held in D.C. for the first time. The county, in partnership with the Rosslyn BID, JBG Companies, and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, also hosted 150 trade show attendees in Rosslyn on Monday. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Startup Gets Big Funding Boost — Arlington-based private detective booking startup Trustify has raised more than $6.5 million as part of its latest fundraising round. The company recently opened a new office in Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal]
Letter to the Editor: Kids Over Dogs — The writer of a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette newspaper doesn’t understand why, in county government, there seems to be more urgency over proposed changes to a dog park than making sure there is enough land to build new schools to keep up with rising enrollment. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Arlington County Board approved Tuesday a $12 million package of state and local grants for the relocation of Nestlé’s U.S. corporate headquarters to Rosslyn.
The food giant will receive $6 million in Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant money from Virginia. COF money is incentive-based, and requires at least $36 million in capital investment and 748 new jobs with an average annual salary of $127,719.
That state grant will be matched by the county’s Economic Development Incentive grant and related infrastructure improvements. The $4 million EDI grant has the same requirements as the state grant but also requires that at least 205,000 square feet of space be leased.
The additional $2 million in infrastructure improvements is already planned in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, said Christina Winn of Arlington Economic Development.
Winn said those improvements include the Corridor of Light public art installation on N. Lynn Street, the Lynn Street Esplanade and Custis Trail Improvement project, and relocation of bus stops on N. Moore Street.
The combination of grants shows “everybody giving a little bit to get so much back,” Winn said. She added that such incentives help Arlington stay competitive against its regional rivals, and that such programs are only used 7 percent of the time, when AED looks to attract big companies like Grant Thornton.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol said that she has previously been “skeptical” of such incentive programs, but that she sees their value in cases like this. Nestlé is projected to bring $14.2 million in net tax benefit to Arlington, and will bring an anchor tenant to the previously empty skyscraper at 1812 N. Moore Street. The move is seen as a big economic development win for the county.
“The case has been well made about what this means for Arlington County and why this is a significant decision on the part of Nestlé,” Cristol said.
Photo courtesy Monday Properties