Jun 29, 2023 - Politics
Town Talker

National Landing takes on downtown D.C.

A physical model of future buildings at National Landing in Arlington, including the Amazon HQ2 helix building pictured

National Landing with Amazon's helix. One day, perhaps. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Watch out, downtown D.C. and Navy Yard: National Landing says it's better than you.

Why it matters: There is a turf war over the future of urban living — and new power centers are threatening D.C.'s prosperity.

State of play: The Northern Virginia neighborhood once mocked for the National Landing name describes itself as an "innovation district." Boosters gush about the shiny Amazon HQ2 towers. There is an upcoming 3.5-acre Virginia Tech — wait for it — Innovation Campus. Plus buzzy destinations like a water garden.

  • With $4 billion in transportation investments, National Landing is on a mission of sorts to be the next great live-and-work center.
  • Its Business Improvement District frequently compares itself to four other hubs — downtown D.C., Capitol Riverfront in Southwest D.C., Tysons Corner, and Rosslyn-Ballston. In 2022, it posted about 15% job growth, thanks largely to Amazon. That's far ahead of second-best downtown D.C. at 3%, according to National Landing BID's figures.

Reality check: National Landing poses a real threat to the District, where leaders during the heyday of the 2010s boom boasted about "DC Cool."

  • The Post dropped a bombshell last week, citing three sources who confirmed gossip that Monumental Sports & Entertainment has been in talks with Virginia officials to move the Wizards and Capitals from the Capital One Arena to near Amazon HQ2.

What they're saying: National Landing "is emerging as a new model for downtown urban districts, one that's growing in both residents and jobs," National Landing BID head Tracy Sayegh Gabriel told its members last Wednesday inside a theater in Crystal City.

  • Yes, but: Challenges include the delay to Amazon HQ2's second phase (that helix building), and its 25% office vacancy rate is higher than downtown D.C.

The other side: Back across the Potomac, the mood in downtown Washington is more downbeat.

  • "Unparalleled opportunity" is Downtown D.C. BID's new catchphrase. The words were projected onto the walls of the Planet Word museum last Wednesday evening when BID president Gerren Price pitched reimagining downtown to local business leaders.
  • Downtown has its own action plan, and it centers on reducing crime, grappling with homelessness, and converting offices to apartments.
  • But Price was decidedly less grandiose than National Landing, citing accomplishments like trash pickup and innovation in the form of outdoor dining.

What's next: Important economic data is expected on Friday from D.C.'s Office of the Chief Financial Officer. It'll be the first pulse check on downtown since February, when the CFO reduced the city's revenue estimate by $500 million, writing that telework posed a "serious, long-term risk to the District's economy and tax base."

💬 Will downtown rise like a phoenix? Is Arlington still soulless? Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. Drop me a line about which place you'd rather live: [email protected].


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