Amazon’s HQ2: A New Era For Arlington

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Amazon’s HQ2: A New Era For Arlington

An artist rendition of Amazon's National Landing

An artist rendition of Amazon's National Landing

Courtesy of JBG Smith

An artist rendition of Amazon's National Landing

Courtesy of JBG Smith

Courtesy of JBG Smith

An artist rendition of Amazon's National Landing

Ryan Cole, Sentry Staff Reporter

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On December 4, in a hearing room full of angry union workers, the Arlington County Board unanimously agreed to give Amazon permission to build two 22-story buildings in Pentagon City as part of the development of their new headquarters, HQ2.

For a county that has historically been populated by government employees due to its close proximity to the nation’s capital, the arrival of Amazon marks a dramatic, community-altering shift towards the commercial sector in Arlington. The multi-billion dollar company will make waves upon its arrival, creating an estimated 25,000 new jobs over the next 12 years and sparking massive economic growth.

Arlington residents should be bracing for the corporate giant’s arrival, preparing to welcome the growth but also combat issues that Amazon will expedite related to overcrowding and affordable housing.

Accusations from union workers of job misclassification and payroll fraud certainly have not been great for Amazon’s public image. However, Amazon has made an effort to contribute to the Arlington community and endear itself to residents.

Amazon has been especially generous in efforts to provide affordable housing in Arlington in an attempt to combat the dramatic rise in property value that its arrival will trigger. In addition to their required contribution of $20 million to Arlington’s affordable housing investment fund, Amazon has decided to give an additional $3 million towards the cause, including one million towards the redevelopment of the American Legion Post on Washington Boulevard.

Amazon has also agreed to match up to $5 million in employee donations to 20 non-profits with primary focuses on housing affordability and homelessness. Ten of these organizations are located here in Arlington and ten in Seattle, the home of Amazon’s original headquarters. 

The development of HQ2 will materialize in three stages. As of right now, stage one is in full swing with Amazon beginning to hire employees to work in interim office spaces at 241 18th Street and 2345 Crystal Place.

Next, Amazon will move on to stage two, which will be the development of the two approved buildings at Metropolitan (Met) Park in Crystal City. Representatives from Amazon and JBG Smith (the developer of Amazon’s properties in Arlington) both stress that Amazon’s campus in the park will be a space for the entire community, not just Amazon employees, to enjoy.

Citizens can expect ample green space, an aesthetically pleasing place to walk around and new local restaurants on the first floor of both buildings. Amazon will also be providing a daycare service for employees with younger children at Met Park. This project will be underway shortly, and Amazon hopes to have everything completed by 2023.

Stage three will take place at Amazon’s second development site in Arlington: Pen Place, which is currently occupied by a largely vacant hotel. This property is in an earlier stage of development, so much less is known about the specifics of Amazon’s plans, but “multiple new buildings” will be built, according to Amazon representatives.

On January 14, at The Westin Hotel in Crystal City, the Arlington Ridge Civic Association held a public meeting to discuss these plans and what they mean for the surrounding community. The two-hour conference included presentations from various experts on topics like livability (making Crystal City a more desirable place to live) and open space (to which one resident pointed out that he remembered when it was all open space). Representatives from Amazon and JBG Smith were also on hand to talk about their upcoming plans in the area.

The meeting mostly confirmed what was already known: Amazon is committed to the affordable housing cause and is eager to make its headquarters an inviting place for all members of the community to gather and enjoy. However, it was evident when they opened up the floor for questions that this affirmation was not enough for most of the audience members.

The estimated 200 Arlingtonians in the room did not want to hear about how beautiful and charming Met Park is going to be, or how much money Amazon has given to this, that or the other. They wanted to know where all the new employees are going to live, or what the solution is for the already nightmarish traffic snarl that these new commuters are only going to add to.

Unfortunately, it became clear that no one in the room had those answers. An evening of positivity and eagerness about HQ2 as a visually attractive and pleasant addition to Crystal City ended on a low note when skeptical members of the public exposed the lack of solutions to some of the more practical issues that will rear their ugly heads as Amazon begins to set up shop.

Last year, when it first came out that Amazon had decided to come to Arlington, it was okay to not have answers to issues like traffic. Now, though, the new era of Amazon in Arlington is beginning and these issues need solving. Amazon is not coming soon, Amazon is here.