Nov 14, 2023 - Development

How National Landing transformed Northern Virginia, five years later

A view of National Landing and Amazon's Met Park.

The National Landing skyline featuring Amazon's Met Park in the middle. Photo courtesy of the National Landing BID

Five years ago this week, the DMV's landscape was forever altered: Amazon chose Northern Virginia as its second hub and birthed a new neighborhood, National Landing.

Why it matters: The decision took the Arlington and Alexandria areas bordering Route 1 — which had a rep for being a ghost town filled with drab, brutalist office buildings — and gave them a major glow-up, positioning the corridor as a kind of East Coast Silicon Valley.

Yes, but: Not everyone was excited. Some locals worried that Amazon HQ2 would cause housing prices to spike, add congestion and bring a barrage of well-paid tech workers that would push out long-time residents. (And, crucially, affect the dating scene.)

Catch up fast: On Nov. 13, 2018, Amazon announced that, after a competitive search, its HQ2 would come to Arlington. (Originally, HQ2 was going to be split between Northern Virginia and New York City, but Amazon later scrapped the N.Y. campus.)

  • Virginia and Arlington offered to give Amazon subsidies worth $573 million in return for the company creating 25,000 jobs at an average $150,000 salary.
  • It was also announced that Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard would now be lumped together into one hybrid neighborhood known as, yes, National Landing.

Then ensued a barrage of online WTF comments and mockery. During a live "Kojo Nnamdi Show" discussion about Amazon HQ2, attendees even booed the name.

  • Others saw a branding opportunity: At one point, Crystal City Restaurant Gentlemen's Club seriously considered changing its name to the genius "National Landing Strip."
  • And now National Landing is trying to make NaLa happen. (I much prefer Natty L. as a nickname)

State of play: Whatever one's feelings about the name, National Landing has seen a ton of growth over the past five years.

  • Earlier this year, Amazon opened the initial phase of HQ2 — Met Park, which has 50,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, 2.5 acres of public park space, a playground, and a new farmers market. So far, 8,000 Amazon employees are based there.
  • Amazon's Housing Equity Fund has also invested over $1 billion toward preserving and creating more than 7,500 affordable homes locally, the company tells Axios.

Between the lines: Several non-Amazon initiatives are also bringing the neighborhood and surrounding Arlington closer to becoming a tech innovation hub.

What they're saying: "National Landing has emerged as one of the most exciting stories of urban reinvention and sustainable growth in our region, if not the nation," says National Landing BID president and executive director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel.

Reality check: While the neighborhood is certainly changing, HQ2's effect on National Landing didn't pan out as initially expected, thanks to Covid, a shaky economy, and construction delays.

  • Predictions of Amazon workers flooding National Landing were waylaid due to pandemic-induced work-from-home life.
  • While Met Park is open, construction on HQ2's sprawling second phase, Pen Place, was placed on hold earlier this year. (Yes, that includes the spiral-shaped Helix building many have likened to the poop emoji.)
  • The delay in Pen Place's delivery comes as Amazon launched a wave of layoffs within the past year — one of many tech companies affected by the economic slump.

Meanwhile, Arlington hasn't paid Amazon any incentives yet due to Covid's impact on tax revenue generated by hotels and lodging, Arlington Economic Development tells Axios.

Zoom in: HQ2 gave National Landing's real-estate market an initial jump, with buyers rushing in and developers hurrying to build luxe apartments.

  • But while the median sales prices for ZIP codes 22202, 22305, and 22301 — which comprise National Landing — have increased since Nov. 2018, that's mostly due to the Covid real-estate frenzy and the DMV's generally strong market, not an influx of Amazon-specific buying, found a new Bright MLS report.
  • Most current HQ2 workers live outside of Arlington County, says the report.

What's next: Expect more development as National Landing continues to work toward its goal of being an urban tech worker's dream.

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