Why Crystal City, Virginia, Was An Easy Choice For Amazon’s HQ2
06 Dec 2018
In perhaps one of the more game-changing decisions in recent real estate history, Amazon announced its decision to split its second headquarters between Crystal City, Virginia, and Long Island City, New York, along with a smaller Operation Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The decision came as a shock to many who felt certain that low-cost cities like Atlanta or Dallas would be the final contenders, but, in retrospect, there are a multitude of underlying factors that make these three cities, particularly Crystal City, the ideal location for Amazon’s second headquarters.
While all three cities meet Amazon’s requirements, it’s logical for Amazon to split HQ2 into two locations, knowing the difficulty of finding or attracting 50,000 new employees in any one locality. And while a low cost of living in other markets may make sense to the bottom line, the need for an abundant number of highly skilled and educated workers outweighed any short-term financial benefits. With Crystal City, Amazon will check every wish-list item it wanted during its search.
In what became so apparent to Amazon, Crystal City stands to benefit from the marketing campaign that highlighted the city’s attributes and should lead additional corporate relocations and developers to pay much closer attention to this neighborhood.
At The Doorstep Of Major Infrastructure Points
One of Crystal City’s prime selling points to Amazon was its connectivity to Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the rest of the United States. The orange and yellow metro lines are located in the heart of the neighborhood and take commuters to downtown Washington, D.C., in 20 minutes, to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in less than five minutes, and to Washington Dulles International Airport in 60 minutes. Additionally, the Virginia Rail Expressway provides direct access from the Northern Virginia suburbs. As for digital infrastructure, over 70% of the world’s internet traffic flows through Northern Virginia, which has more than 650 data processing, hosting and related establishments that account for 30% of the world’s data center square footage.
Access To A Tech-Orientated Workforce
Most important for technology companies is an ever-growing need for a talented workforce to support their operations. The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Statistical Area produces more computer science graduates than any other metro area in the country and has a population where one in two have a bachelor’s degree or higher — this is notably greater than Seattle’s 40%. With universities like Virginia Tech and George Mason pledging millions of dollars to create Innovation Campuses, including a new $1 billion campus in Alexandria next door, Amazon will benefit from a steady stream of future employees.
Crystal City Office Market Can Easily Absorb Amazon
With an estimated 25,000 of the 50,000 employees to be located in Crystal, Amazon will need over four million square feet of space and will mostly likely require an urban campus setting similar to Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle. Finding that amount of available space is fairly difficult in land-constrained Washington, D.C., but a handful of locations in Crystal City can support Amazon’s operations with over 17 million square feet of office space and an additional 150 acres of developable land.
Brand New Housing
Already, 4,000 units have been planned for the near future. This influx of new apartments will provide an immediate ability to house Amazon employees within walking distance to their offices. Additionally, the immediate neighborhood boasts hundreds of restaurants, retailers, hotels and a Whole Foods Market, making it a true 24/7 neighborhood.
With infrastructure in place, an educated workforce, prime development land and an existing newly delivered housing stock, it is obvious why Amazon has potentially chosen Crystal City for its new headquarters over other cities in the United States. Given all these attributes, it is my prediction that developers and future corporations will target Crystal City or markets like it for their next projects or office locations.