When Amazon finally confirmed a new headquarters would reside just outside of Washington, D.C. in National Landing, many locals' first reaction was, "what is National Landing?"
Across the newly-defined neighborhood sit isolated clusters of shops and restaurants, but faceless buildings and franchises comprise the area's backbone. A scattering of modern developments mingle with buildings that show their age and roots in unfussy, modest architectural designs.
Yet utilitarian shells often belie the sleek interiors of renovated apartment and office buildings. It's an area pushing for contemporary recognition while grappling with the limits of existing architecture and contending with the charm of other nearby downtown areas.
A walk through National Landing shows the potential of the area to transform into a metropolitan hub. But Amazon, developers and local officials will have to tread carefully to avoid stressing the rent, transportation and standard of living in the already-crowded D.C. metro area.
Red: Buildings Amazon is expected to lease
Yellow: Tracts Amazon is expected to purchase
Purple: JBG Smith development projects
National Landing stretches between Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. It sits parallel to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and a quick hop across the Potomac River from the National Mall.
Amazon selected JBG Smith, one of the biggest landowners and developers in the area, as its partner for the redevelopment. The selection has accelerated planning and development of some of JBG Smith's holdings in the area, including office, living and retail spaces.
Amazon's expected leased space
With the influx of talent from Amazon and other area investments, National Landing has the potential to create a booming hub in Northern Virginia for IT workers, adding to the "Cyber Corridor" and "Data Center Alley" nearby.
IT professionals have a range of top tech hubs to work in, from mainstays in California, New York and Massachusetts to emerging ones in North Carolina, Texas and Colorado. High costs of living in Silicon Valley are pushing more workers away from the epicenter of tech, and cities with vibrant cultures and reasonable costs of living can pull this talent in.
More spaces for food, dining, retail and entertainment around the new headquarters will modernize the area and attract the discretionary income of 25,000 new Amazon employees and other community members.
The proposed deal has Amazon set to lease around 500,000 square feet of office space across three buildings in Arlington:
- 241 18th St. S
- 1770 Crystal Dr.
- 1800 South Bell St.
1800 South Bell St., currently a squat concrete unit, will transform into a taller, glass-walled office building.
The other buildings for lease, pictured below, sit side-by-side on the other side of the street. 1770 Crystal Drive is expected to begin construction in Q4 2018, with Amazon set to rent all of its office space.
Once renovated, the buildings will sit North of a second metro entrance and public plaza.
The second metro entrance should help alleviate congestion at the Crystal City metro entrance, located across the street from the 1800 South Bell St. location.
The public plaza is one of the areas that JBG Smith will turn into a community space, pictured below with seating options, a park water feature and food and drink options surrounding.
Redevelopment could transform the National Landing skyline and culture, providing an alternative to other downtown areas in Arlington, such as the Clarendon strip, or even Washington. Many lots in prime real estate are underutilized with small or aging buildings, and larger, modern mixed-use spaces could maximize the neighborhood's potential.
Amazon's expected purchases
Northwest of the buildings for lease are several parcels of land that the company is expected to purchase from JBG Smith.
The area will transform from one tract of land with an old warehouse building and an empty lot into an area filled with modern high rises and mixed-use buildings.
The plans for swanky, glass-enclosed units and modern high-rises resemble the decade-long transformation of Seattle under Amazon's residency. Before and after photos show the onset of high rises and modern developments across the Emerald City, overtaking existing infrastructure.
While Seattle's transition saw new community areas and beautiful additions to the city, it came alongside higher rents, small business closures and stressed public systems.
What happened in Seattle could provide some clues about what problems the National Landing area might grapple with as development progresses. The long-term effects may take years to realize, and many eyes will be upon the local governments to see if they stave off the negative consequence Seattle incurred.
Purchase area one, as demarcated by the map, is currently home to an old warehouse building between S. Eade St. and S. Fern St. JBG Smith envisioned a tall building with retail space on the floor level to take its place.
Just north of this tract sits a Whole Foods nestled under The Bartlett apartment building, already fully constructed. North of The Bartlett, directly across the streets, sits the second area Amazon is expected to purchase, which will house the Pen Place project, a mixed-use JBG Smith development.
This redevelopment could create significant new office and multifamily space to help accommodate the influx of new residents in the area.
The new developments will transform a gravel lot into modern apartment buildings, public green space and business areas.
The project will tap an underutilized space in the middle of an urban area. Today, the tract houses parking and scattered construction equipment.
JBG Smith's development projects
For many current D.C. and Northern Virginia residents, the drawbacks of a big tech headquarters in their backyard brings many risks.
The D.C. metro area has faced criticisms about its public transportation, and an influx of new commuters could stress transit systems without sufficient upgrades or improvements. And rent in the area, already high, is likely to rise further, potentially displacing lower-income residents.
Upgrades to National Landing could help offset the stresses of thousands of new residents and workers in the neighborhood.
JBG Smith is expected to plan and design 6.2 million square feet of multifamily and office space for National Landing. The area south and north of Amazon's leased buildings will see several new development projects, some of which will begin construction in Q4 2018 or early 2019.
Toward the southern end of National Landing, JBG Smith will construct a new rail center with a pedestrian bridge connecting the neighborhood to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The airport is currently separated from the business area by the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Just beside the rail center and in front of Lockheed Martin's Crystal City office sits the Crystal City Courtyard Green, which JBG Smith will redevelop to include a glass-enclosed dining space.
Across from the courtyard and rail center is a strip of food joints and, just north of those businesses, sits 1900 Crystal Drive, a unit set for new construction by JBG Smith.
The developer accelerated plans for the development after the headquarters selection. The project is located one block south of the second metro entrance that JBG Smith will construct by Amazon's leased buildings.
The buildings set to replace the current unit will provide an estimated 750 units of multifamily space.
Just north of the 1900 units will sit the new metro entrance and Amazon leased buildings, including the Central District Retail development, which is expected to add 130,000 square feet of retail space with construction set to begin in Q4 2018. The development includes the public plaza area by the new metro entrance.
JBG Smith will add additional developments north of Amazon's buildings, including an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
The space north of 1770 Crystal Drive is currently a green space, with apartment, retail and office spaces next to it.
The 1550 Crystal Drive development will also modernize area by the cinema.