Some days it seems that the only one not saying Amazon’s HQ2 will be in Northern Virginia is Amazon. Now you can add The New York Times to the list. The newspaper reports today that the consensus among investors, economic development officials and real estate developers is that Northern Virginia — specifically Arlington’s Crystal City — “checks all the boxes.”
The aging office park has had tons of empty space since the Navy and its battalion of contractors and hangers-on upped anchor and moved out. It has excellent Metro service, is literally within walking distance of National Airport, a highly trained work force and, not least, is a stone’s throw from D.C., where Amazon chief Jeff Bezos owns the city’s biggest mansion and the Washington Post.
Crystal City is also just a few Metro stops away from Capitol Hill and the K Street corridor, redoubt of the lawmakers and lobbyists who increasingly will be shaping the regulations covering Amazon’s labor, technology and consumer interests. Not to mention anti-trust. Besides, being a major economic force in the D.C. area never hurt anyone’s dealing with Congress.
It’s also noted that Amazon’s second largest current office is already located in Northern Virginia. Its cloud computing division has been hunkered down in Herndon, near Dulles Airport, for the last several years.
While other D.C.-area sites have been considered — some in Loudoun and Fairfax, others in D.C. and Maryland — Crystal City seems to roll everything Amazon says it wants into one huge ball.
“There are a lot of merits to a lot of these places, but at the end of the day, all of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” the Times quotes Amy Liu, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, as saying.
Left at the curb
While economic development officials in Fairfax, Loudoun and so forth may be sad to lose the prize they’ve hungered after, there would be some consolation — quite a bit, actually — to the region having its cake and eating it too. Fairfax and Loudoun are already swamped with traffic and there has been murmuring among consumers and voters that bringing another 50,000 jobs to the region might bring things to an even slower crawl.
Crystal City, on the other hand, has infrastructure that just doesn’t quit. Like a battleship, a lot of it isn’t visible; miles of tunnels link the buildings in the development and rumor has always had it that there is at least one tunnel that leads directly to the Pentagon, which for the benefit of newcomers we should note is also shaped like a — you guessed it — crystal.
Plopping Amazon down in Crystal City would basically be restoring the region to normal, rather than swamping an already congested space somewhere else. Instead of sitting out at the end of the region’s network of freeways and Metro lines, it is pretty much at the point where rail lines, highways and bus routes converge.
There is already plenty of nearby housing, everything from high-rise condos to single-family homes. While housing isn’t cheap anywhere in the D.C. region, Arlington at least has a large existing inventory. It, as the Times said, checks all the boxes.