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Washington to Amazon: How urban do you want to be?

(c) 2018, The Washington Post. Many locals cheered when the Washington ... But recent interviews with more than a dozen local officials and real estate executives reveal a far more complex competition. The region’s three bids actually represent at ...

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In Virginia and Maryland, officials have been more coy about their locationsThe Northern Virginia proposal, submitted by former GovTerry McAuliffe, includes four areas capable of accommodating Amazon: Crystal City and Potomac Yard; the Center for Innovative Technology campus in Herndon; the Eisenhower Avenue area of Alexandria; and an assortment of parcels in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The proposal from County Executive Isiah Leggett, submitted by Montgomery County with the support of Maryland GovLarry Hogan, offers parcels in the area between the Capital Beltway and Montrose Parkway, commonly referred to as White Flint or North Bethesda. Here’s how those watching the competition size up Amazon’s choices: - Option 1: Copy Seattle site In Seattle’s South Lake Union area, Amazon selected a seldom-visited location largely owned by a single company: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Real EstateIn 10 years, the two companies raced to turn the area into a teeming tech hub with more than 40,000 employees. “Zoning was all doneThat was all thereWe didn’t ask for anything new(Vulcan) had done the heavy lifting,” John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president for global real estate said in an earlier interview. Experts - even those backing other locations - said replicating such an environment locally could elevate Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Northern Virginia as Amazon’s best option. Like South Lake Union, those areas are filled with outdated buildings and underused properties, including yawning vacancies in some of the office buildingsAnd like South Lake Union, one well-capitalized company oversees the parcels: JBG SmithThe $4.4 billion company is the region’s biggest real estate owner, most active developer and owns a majority of the property in this bid - enough to accommodate all 8 million square feet on its ownNo other company can say that. Amazon could move in quickly and once it got there, it could act fast. Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins declined to discuss the county’s proposed sites but said he is selling Arlington as the center of the area’s tech workforce, adjacent to both D.Cand Montgomery County. “We’re selling the whole region,” he said. - Option 2: Integrate into the city In Seattle, Amazon employees are encouraged to leave their office for lunch and walk to the 28 restaurants that populate the company’s buildingsExecutives trumpet the fact that Amazon’s buildings aren’t secluded from their surroundings, and they aren’t even branded with the company’s logo. There are homey touches, tooThe company allows dog lovers to register their pets with security and bring them to workFree bananas are offered to passersby. If Amazon wants to double down on the millennial crowd it could do that in D.C.‘s NoMa neighborhood of Northeast, the area anchored by Nationals Park in Southeast or the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in ArlingtonThey don’t offer huge plots of land controlled by singular entities - rather, they’re a slew of parcels owned by different developers working on different timelines. The areas are well established as popular places to live and work for the region’s young tech talent. “We know that their employees want to live someplace where they don’t have to depend on a carWe know that they’re concerned also about a pipeline of talent,” Bowser said in an interview“So we looked at what they were asking for and we looked around our city and we knew we could be on point with our response to the things that they were looking for.” Developing D.C.‘s two other options, Hill East and the U Street-Shaw neighborhoods, would probably be thornier than the othersParcels there are collectively home to the Franklin DReeves Center Municipal Building, Howard University Hospital, a homeless shelter, the headquarters of the D.CHousing Authority and other usesNo master developer has been selected for either location, and major zoning approvals would be needed to achieve 8 million square feet. - Option 3: Embrace suburbs To fuel Amazon’s workforce, said Maryland Secretary of Commerce Mike Gill, “you need to hire a whole bunch of college graduates.” Maryland and Montgomery officials are working to bring those graduates to the redeveloping stretch of Rockville Pike known as White Flint, or North BethesdaIt’s a similar argument Alexandria is making in proposing the area along Eisenhower AvenueBoth areas have seen fits and starts of new construction but have most of their potential ahead of them. If Amazon is concerned about retaining employees as they move into their 30s, settle down and have families, Montgomery’s bucolic neighborhoods and strong public schools might be the answerZoning and transportation overhauls around the White Flint Metro station are already well underway and developers here - including Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner - have deep pockets and a collective vision for creating an attractive area for workers. “I think it’s workforce, workforce, workforce,” said developer Bob Buchanan, chairman of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp“Amazon is coming to these entities and saying, ‘OK, we’re coming in with 50,000 employees over timeCan we really find them there or attract them there, and can we keep them there? And if need be, can we retrain them there?‘ “ - Option 4: Go it alone It has received scant attention, but one possibility Amazon floats in its criteria is “a greenfield site of approximately 100 acres certified or pad ready, with utility infrastructure in place.” Therein lies the chance for Fairfax and Loudoun counties to capitalize on the state-owned Center for Innovative Technology campusThirteen miles outside the Capital Beltway, it has not lived up to its promise as a publicly sponsored tech hub - to the point that the state offered it for sale in the summer of 2017. Facebook, Apple and other tech giants have gone against the trend of urbanization by erecting massive, inward-looking campuses featuring all the amenities their employees can dream upIf Amazon wants its own version in the Washington area, this is the rare chance at a blank canvas near a Silver Line Metro station under construction. “I think it comes down to what does Amazon want?” said Buddy Rizer, executive director of Loudoun County economic development“There are the infill sites that offer a more urban environmentAnd then there’s 100 acres that would be a perfect place for them to make their vision a reality.” amazon-dc Sign up for e-mail news updates.   {{m[i].title}} {{shortdesc}} {{m[i].title}} {{shortdesc}} /*Just need to call cX._sei.processHolder at some point after the element is on the page.*/ require(['main'],function () { require(['init'],function (init) { cX._sei.processHolder(); }); }); Top Stories Most Commented --> {{items[i]['title']}} require(['main'], function() { require(['init'], function() { cX._sei.processAdditionalHolders(); }); }); {{#each response}} {{streamTitle}} {{approvedCommentCount}} comment{{#if plural}}s{{/if}} {{/each}} require(['main'], function() { require(['domReady', 'init'], function (domReady) { require(['commentsWidget'], function (commentsWidget) { domReady(function() { commentsWidget.init(); }); }); }); }); --> /*Just need to call cX._sei.processAdditionalHolders at some point on the page. 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