Business & Economy

What Amazon’s Move to Crystal City Could Mean for Northern Virginia

When Amazon officially announced their decision earlier last week, to split the location of their HQ2 between New York and Crystal City (Northern Virginia), the news hadn’t come as much of a surprise to many residents living in the area. Between the educated work force, expansive transit system, and it’s close proximity to lawmakers, the D.C. Metropolitan Area looks to be a future hotbed for growing tech companies looking to expand in the east coast.

With this announcement, Amazon plans on providing 25,000 jobs into the area. Still the opinions of those already living in the area, myself included, can be described as “ambivalent” at best.

Now surely, with a trillion dollar online superstore moving into the neighborhood, we should expect a good bit of economic growth. Not just that, in this attempt to lure Amazon to the area, city officials have pledged programs aimed at improving public infrastructure in the surrounding areas. Things like constructing affordable housing units and expanding public transportation will now be on the forefront in this wave of policies implemented by city and state officials.

To that, all I can say is, it’s about time. Living in Ashburn, it’s felt like it’s been ages since they’ve started working on that Silver Line metro extension towards Dulles. Maybe now there will finally be a sense of urgency to finish it, so I could actually use it. In short, these improvements in infrastructure should’ve been on the minds of officials a long time ago. Appeasing Amazon to come here shouldn’t be the primary reason for enacting all this infrastructural work, but it’s better late than never. It’s not like I ever tidy up around my place unless company is over.

But with the issue on hand, that being Amazon’s construction of HQ2 in Crystal City, it really should be asked: at what cost is this all worth?

Well for one, many taxpayers believe they overpaid for this bid. Northern Virginia offered $573 million in tax subsidies, which amounts to a $22,000 cash grant per job. The District is prepared to offer up to a billion dollars in tax incentives, and the state of Maryland is estimated to add a whopping $8.5 billion.

Along with that half a billion Northern Virginia offered Amazon, they also allocated $223 towards improving transportation. Considering that 25,000 people are now expected to join alongside you on your morning commute to work on I-95, I think we could all come to a consensus that improvements would need to be made. Thing this is, which I reiterate, those changes needed to have been made a while ago.

We’ve already had trouble meeting the housing demands as is, with the influx we have coming into the area. According to Zillow, the average house in Arlington (a major county backing this move) is priced around $557,990 and is sold around $495,900. Zillow also states that the prices of Virginia homes has increased 3.6% over the past year, and predicts a 3.1% increase for the upcoming year. Keep in mind, these calculations have been made well before Amazon decided to announce their move to Crystal City. Expect that rise in property value to steepen.

Even now, as I am writing this article, there are two gentlemen behind me discussing Amazon’s decision. Talking to them prior to this, overhearing that they were also from my alma mater, I found out that one of them is ecstatic about Amazon coming to Crystal City. The reason being, well, he’s in real estate…so he’s sure to cash out when the law of “supply and demand” works in his favor. Personally however, he said he’s thinking about moving. “There’s going to be way too many people here for my taste”, he says.

And speaking of my undergraduate alma mater, Virginia Tech, they also have a stake in this move by Amazon. Even though the university is located roughly 4 hours away, the state of Virginia has agreed to a $1.1 billion plan over the course of the next 20 years for an extension campus in Alexandria, which is walking distance from the Crystal City headquarters. Now Virginia Tech boasts of a premier business program in the Pamplin School of Business, many of which usually end up finding jobs here in Northern Virginia. I think it would be fair to assume here that this move, to include a Virginia Tech satellite campus here in Northern Virginia, is to help with Amazon’s recruitment processes. Considering that a massive proportion of Virginia Tech’s student body is from Northern Virginia (and usually that’s where many of them return to after graduation), I’d say this is good news for the younger generation entering the work force. However, for those older individuals looking to find work, I don’t expect them to be strong candidates here in the application pool. At least for one of the higher paying jobs.

Now with all those factors accounted for, I personally believe we’ve bitten off more than we can chew here. One of the major concerns Amazon had with creating a headquarters to Crystal City was whether or not the city could feasibly accommodate them in the midst of this this sprawl of people coming into this area. Our elected officials assured them they could, and incentivized their move by finally taking action on getting our infrastructure up to speed. Still, I’m afraid this still wouldn’t be enough. And with the rise of homelessness in Seattle since Amazon’s meteoric rise, I’m worried that many of the residents of the D.C. Metropolitan Area might face those same tradeoffs.