Amazon selects Arlington for HQ2; DC anticipates economic shift

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Amazon selects Arlington for HQ2; DC anticipates economic shift

Photo courtesy of the city of Arlington

Photo courtesy of the city of Arlington

Photo courtesy of the city of Arlington

Zara Hall

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After more than a year of efforts from different cities to secure Amazon, the company announced its second headquarters will be split between Long Island City, New York and Crystal City, Virginia, newly branded as National Landing by Virginia officials.

Amazon first announced its decision to open a second headquarters in September 2017, and published a request for proposals from cities. The cities had to meet certain requirements. For example, the metropolitan area must have a population over one million, and must be within 45 minutes of an international airport. The qualified cities were eager for the opportunity; in total, Amazon received 238 proposals.

In exchange for the prospect of 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $150,000 and economic revitalization, Amazon wanted large investment. Once 20 finalist cities were chosen in January, the company used a bidding process to move forward. Virginia pledged $819 million, and New York’s leaders offered $1.819 billion. Between the two cities, Amazon will be receiving more than $2.4 billion in government subsidies and investments.

Most cities included their own unique incentives in their proposal. In DC’s bid, titled “Obviously DC,” they offered to create “Amazon University, a customized training academy created in partnership with our educational institutions and workforce organizations that will be tailored to the company’s human capital needs.” As part of the original proposals, Amazon asked for extensive data on all of the cities’ surrounding housing, wages, traffic, crime, education, and more. Once they chose finalists, they asked for even more specific data, such as the price of typical items such as a Starbucks coffee and weekend travel destinations. Critics of Amazon claim that they used their search for a location to collect data on cities for future investments.

Amazon’s arrival will bring considerable change for the DC metro area, especially in terms of housing costs. Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle caused housing prices to skyrocket, and in a city where the average rent is over $2,100, the sixth-highest in the nation, Amazon’s arrival could exacerbate the DC affordable housing crisis. Zillow, a real estate firm, published a report stating that they estimate rent prices in DC to increase by 0.6 percent every year Amazon continues their hiring process, which is likely to take ten years.

Both DC and New York City already experience issues with public transportation and traffic, and with 25,000 people eventually arriving, the cities will have to make major changes to these systems. Virginia has planned a pedestrian bridge from Reagan National Airport to Crystal City, and is going to add second entrances to the Crystal City and planned Potomac Yards Metro stations.

As DC and Northern Virginia are likely to become tech hubs, Virginia schools and universities are rapidly increasing STEM programs, specifically computer science education. Virginia became the first state to introduce mandatory computer science standards last year, introducing computer literacy, educational technology, digital citizenship and information technology.

Virginia Tech is creating a $1 billion, one-million-square-foot, graduate “Innovation Campus,” two miles away from Amazon’s new headquarters, containing programs in computer science and software engineering.

Similarly, George Mason University is creating an Institute for Digital Innovation on its Arlington campus, to house GMU’s graduate education programs. It is also going to establish a new School of Computing, as it expects its number of computer science majors to triple after Amazon’s arrival.