Amazon is set to move into National Landing – parts of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yards – which will generate burdens on the region as well as opportunities
The development burdens on the region are well known to residents: schools, affordable housing, playing fields and transportation. In addition it appears that the subsidy which Virginia will give the wealthy company worth $430 billion, will be $573 million over 12 years and Arlington will give $23 million over 15 years and this will raise property taxes on top of the tax increases related to a rise in house prices — 12.8 percent increase as was seen from Amazon in Seattle over 2 years. The opportunities include increase in new businesses (restaurants and Food service) up – 27 percent in Seattle, more corporate tax revenue from Amazon and its 25,000 employees, second Metro entry for Potomac Yard, new IT training center, injection of technology, but some of the opportunities come from overcoming the burdens.
Overcoming the burdens is what concerns me as an experienced urban planner, because this won’t happen unless Arlington and particularly Alexandria get out of their status quo thinking and think outside the box as well as request money from Amazon/state:
Affordable housing: Alexandria has refused to create integrated income affordable housing as a rule which has proven improvement in outcomes for children in terms of health, education, social and future income. Alexandria has refused to explore market rate affordable housing
including: micro and small units, allowing developers to develop on Alexandria and Federal Government land thus cutting land costs from the housing cost proforma thus lowering housing costs, creating a network like AIRBNB for affordable rooms and apartments and relaxing the zoning codes for affordable development in terms of parking, setbacks and coverage requirements thus decreasing development costs and many other approaches.
Schools: the National Landing region needs to build new schools as per smart growth principles: as part of the Amazon walkable neighborhoods — whether or not they are part of a larger structure — to reduce busing.
Playing Fields, Parks and Gardens: need to be included in all the Amazon walkable neighborhoods development on roofs and the ground – including trees, particularly street trees as these are important for a healthy urban environment per research.
Transportation: The state of Virginia is paying for the second Metro station entry in Potomac Yard so go back to the original plan with a bridge across from the National Industries for the Blind HQ. Step up to actually reduce the number of vehicle trips per day on Route 1 as this is important for the region’s health as fine particulate matter from car exhaust has been found to increase the risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. This can be done by developing complete – including all uses one may encounter in a day – walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. Also, start engaging in congestion pricing for traffic on Route 1 and/or HOV during rush hours. Increase non-polluting shuttles to Metro stations and neighborhoods. Create and Improve pedestrian and bike friendly routes. Remove parking subsidies in dense urban locations to enable alternative transportation such as walking, biking and transit.
If Arlington and Alexandria rise to the occasion, National Landing could result in a modern, healthy, vibrant showcase community instead of compounding existing problems which is the current trajectory. Stats are from a Nov. 15 , 2018 Wall Street Journal article: “The Prosperity Bomb of an Amazonian Invasion.”
Chris Hubbard AIA, LEED-AP, CNU-A
Principal WHA Architecture and Planning, PC