Virginia to Prepare “Robust” Response to Amazon Project

The latest news on the great Amazon elephant hunt comes from Virginia Business magazine.  Managing Editor Paula Squires quotes Stephen Moret, CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership:

Virginia has a keen interest in the Amazon HQ2 opportunity. We are thoroughly reviewing the company’s RFP, which includes a formidable set of site-selection criteria appropriate for a company with Amazon’s scale and ambition. … VEDP is committed to working closely with Governor McAuliffe and Commerce and Trade Secretary [Todd] Haymore to prepare a robust response in concert with our economic development partners at the local, regional and state levels.

Update: The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 100 cities have indicated an interest in responding to Amazon’s RFP. (Hat tip: Rick Gechter.)

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15 responses to “Virginia to Prepare “Robust” Response to Amazon Project

  1. I’ve been impressed by Mr. Moret. He knows what he is doing.

    Regarding this proposal and Northern Virginia, some of the moving parts of a win-win deal might be:

    1. Technology to date seems to favor multi-purpose self driving vehicles (both large and small) for local and regional “mass and car pool” transport. This mode would be combined with drone deliveries to drive down land transport. Northern Virginia has the need for both, Amazon has the solutions for both.

    2. Dulles Airport as built can accommodate double its current traffic load, all in multiple modes of aircraft transport. Amazon’s current businesses and its future ambitions could suck up this unused capacity and then multiply it, eliminating its drag on Dulles and National and then enhance their profitability exponentially in the case of Dulles.

    3. The re-purposing of existing under utilized buildings in Northern Virginia might well prove to be another untapped goldmine for Amazon. I am amazed at the low rents in Northern Virginia today. Rental rates appear to have been stagnant for decades. Solutions will unleash the today’s hidden potential for enormous growth. Again Amazon has shown its capacity to understand and take great advantage of these situations.

    4. New development in Northern Virginia must “EAT TRAFFIC”, NOT SPIN IT UP EXPONENTIALLY like has happened in the past, save for the Ballston to Courthouse Corridor in Arlington. Amazon also understands this and knows how to put it on steroids by emergent technologies, and its capacity to absorb whole varieties of Mixed Uses, making them complimentary and synergistic.

    5. Northern Virginia and Virginia’s latent Inland Empire also holds the potential to bring a multitude of future advantages to Amazon and Virginia.

    • No. 4 on your list will be the hardest to accomplish.

    • I doubt Fairfax and Loudoun County roads can handle any more traffic. All new re-zonings must include realistic TDM plans that are enforceable against the landowners.

      Residents of McLean and parts of Great Falls, Vienna and Falls Church are seeing crippling levels of cut-through traffic from drivers wanting to avoid the Beltway north until the last possible moment. Much of this traffic is Tysons-related. There will be a meeting on this topic on September 18, at 7 pm, Cooper Middle School, in McLean.

    • I agree with both comments above.

      In short, I suspect it is crunch time for Northern Virginia. The Status Quo is reaching crisis proportions. It cannot be sustained. Nor can growth in Northern Virginia be sustained without a massive overall in its land use planning and its future development. Hopefully this will concentrate everyone’s attention as happened in Arlington now nearly 50 years ago.

      Remember, an Amazon Deal likely is a once in 50 year opportunity. An incredible alignment of positive forces.

      Northern Virginia is running out of options. It needs to get its head out of the sand, and grab this opportunity. And come together like should have happened long ago. This requires real leadership on the part of many people, coming together in common purpose for good of all. That is very hard to do. But can be done as Arlington proved in spades 50 years ago.

  2. I think it’s funny (in a sad way) that the city of Seattle can handle Amazon’s HQ1, the city of Cupertino can handle Apple’s new spaceship HQ, the city of Charlotte can handle doubling in population in 30 years but nowhere in Virginia can handle 50,000 new high paying jobs.

    Virginia needs to redistrict between 300 and 500 sq miles of NoVa into a single city. That new city needs to be granted specific constitutional autonomy under the Virginia Constitution (somewhat like Baltimore is a special case in the Maryland Constitution). The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond needs to butt the hell out of making decisions about things they observably don’t understand – like urban transportation, technology, economic development (not based on Federal spending), taxation in an urban environment, etc. Let’s be honest – they don’t understand anything about cities. The Clown Show needs to spend its busy 6 weeks per year of work passing bills honoring the lives of Virginians who have died and contemplating the appropriateness of our state bird, state fish, state song, etc.

    • I agree. Much of Northern Virginia’s problem lies in the splintering of local governments, a tragic accident of history. This combines with very unfortunate Geography, and a north south split (Virginia v. Md) to make for deadly combination. Does the Amazon deal help chances of a another bridge upriver? I doubt it.

    • DJ, Ssshhhh, Don’t give anybody any ideas regarding looking at our state symbols. That would only lead to our special snowflakes demanding that those be changed:

      Cardinal – representative of those privileged white Catholics
      American Foxhound – the term fox is denigrating to women
      Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly – Swallowtail might be offensive to the LGBQT community
      Big Eared Bat – serves as an homage to privileged whities like Prince Charles, Ross Perot and Jeff Sessions.

  3. Everyone is Uber-concerned about traffic and perhaps not without good reason but as DJ pointed out – most urban areas, including Seattle , Atlanta, Charlotte, etc ..all have horrible traffic issues and I don’t see any real changes other than many of these areas are going to HOT toll lanes which reward HOV and from what I’ve been hearing – will allow autonomous vehicles on them first – before other roads.

    How about bike trails between Amazon HQ and where this is affordable, walkable housing.

    My bet is that Amazon will want more than $$$ incentives.. infrastructure and similar amenities…

    but from a 10,000 ft view.. whether Fairfax is a county or a city – won’t matter much in my view.. what WILL matter that IS TRUE for most all urban areas is the reality of the modern “beltway” that is a reality than cannot be changed.. i.e. people who would like to work for Amazon and/or Amazon wants them.. may well not live in close proximity to the HQ in spite of the nearby amenities.. more than a few will live somewhere distant.. on the beltways or on the radiating spokes… and actually the folks who live in existing neighborhoods would actually prefer that.. right TMT?

    • While Fairfax County officials and state and federal representatives would work hard to bring Amazon to Tysons or some other part of Fairfax County and many residents wouldn’t turn down the jobs, I strong suspect many current residents would just as soon not see Amazon arrive because of the added traffic and the abject failure of Fairfax County and VDOT to do anything about today’s unacceptable traffic congestion and cut-through traffic.

      A root cause analysis would likely conclude that the years of Fairfax County approving Comp Plan amendments and re-zoning applications when decision-makers knew with certainty the transportation system serving Fairfax County could not sustain the growth. To a significant extent, the Supervisors got religion and made a much better attempt to link land use changes and transportation in Tysons. And after considerable pressure from citizens groups, the County even adopted a financial plan to fund the needed improvements.

      But the realities have overtaken the hoped for results. The Silver Line’s ridership is low, below projections and chiefly consists of riders who used to take the Orange Line. Moreover, it’s a spur line that doesn’t serve the commuting needs of many Tysons workers. Driving is a lot easier for many people. How many City of Fairfax residents would take the Orange Line to East Falls Church and transfer to the Silver Line to get to Tysons or Reston, rather than drive. Or Bethesda residents take the Red Line downtown and transfer to the Silver Line?

      Both Route 7 and Route 123 have high levels of through traffic (37% plus) and the increased Tysons traffic volumes simply overwhelm the existing capacity. Maryland’s decision not to supplement the American Legion Bridge and the Beltway to the I-270 spur create huge backups virtually all day long. That, in turn, pushed people to avoid getting on the Beltway heading to Maryland until the Georgetown Pike ramp and has large volumes of drivers taking secondary and neighborhood streets. Meanwhile VDOT and Fairfax County have done nothing beyond installing a few speed bumps. But they are playing some beautiful music on their violins.

      So far Fairfax County’s mandatory traffic demand management (TDM) program seems more farcical than beneficial. While the targets are high, even in early years, for those landowners, and they report great successes (See page 55), the results have not been audited or the actual data made available to the public. With perceived increases in traffic on major routes and the takeover of many neighborhood streets by commuters and, many times, business vehicles, I doubt these results are accurate.

      So don’t be surprised if many ordinary people hope Fairfax County, especially Tysons, doesn’t get Amazon.

      • I have been out of the real estate game for a long time in Northern Virginia, but I understand your great skepticism on the alleged benefits versus costs of further growth in and around Fairfax County. The record to date of such growth, its benefits versus it liabilities, is abysmal.

        Making this situation worse are all the promises that have been made again and again by leaders and all the promises that have been broken again and again by leaders over four decades now. And how those broken promises combined with all of the refusals by leaders to fact obvious facts of impending failure on a massive scale, endless gridlock, for one of many examples. And how instead what could be have been done right so many times for so many for so long have been time and again sacrificed by a few intent on making quick bucks for themselves and their hangers on at great long term expense of the great majority of citizens of the county and region.

        Somehow this failure has been built into the system of local governance. It is truly a shameful. A record of monumental proportions, what’s been going on for so many years. I saw that future clearly working there in the mid 1980s, and so did many others. But nothing of consequence changed. No one could or would honestly stand up and face, admit and deal with the impending train wreck. Or those who tried or did were exiled or sidelined, their places taken by those willing to play a crooked game. For example, the traffic consultant who spoke the truth about the impending debacle around Dulles Airport, only to lose his livelihood in the region.

        When Jeff Bezos looks at Northern Virginia he will have to consider all of this, and weigh it into his decision making.

        I like to believe that leaders like Jeff Bezos can spark and power amazing change, and do so with uncommon talent and integrity. Is that not part of his proven track record over the past three decades? And with him in the game and on the right team, the other local people of good will are empowered at long last to stand up on a winning side and take control, and accomplish great things. I’d like to think this result is now potentially within reach.

        Or it should be:

        Northern Virginia is a truly unique place, a spectacular commercial location with an endless stream of unique people, and enormous untapped, hidden, and long abused, potential waiting to be unleashed.

      • Too Many Taxes –

        Your complaint about the local government’s failure, indeed its refusal, to face facts and tell its citizens the truth, but to tell citizens outright falsehoods so as to gain their reliance on government actions that are adverse to their citizen’s self interest has been going on for a long as I can remember Fairfax County which includes nearly seven decades now.

        Here is your charge:

        “So far Fairfax County’s mandatory traffic demand management (TDM) program seems more farcical than beneficial. While the targets are high, even in early years, for those landowners, and they report great successes (See page 55), the results have not been audited or the actual data made available to the public. With perceived increases in traffic on major routes and the takeover of many neighborhood streets by commuters and, many times, business vehicles, I doubt these results are accurate.”

        I doubt Jeff Bezos puts up with this conduct in his Companies. Not for a day, or a week, much less for decades.

        It’s time for change in Fairfax County. Surely it’s citizens are not all sheep.

  4. We have to make a play for it. Compared to MD, VA is taking more proactive steps to improve traffic such as HOT lanes and Metro expansion. Not that I was a huge fan of those things. But the rationale was, “if you build it, they will come”. Will they? I hope so.

    Also MD energy policy is iffy at best. MD is heading for heavy reliance on importing power, so who knows where that policy goes?

    • I agree with your point on MD vs VA and traffic. Maryland seems to have just given up on addressing their major transportation issues. Given the high taxes collected in Maryland I have to wonder what they’re doing with the money. I suspect that a lot of the money is getting dumped into the lost cause known as Baltimore but I don’t really know.

  5. Crystal City/Potomac Yard is the best location for Amazon HQ2. They have WMATA(Two Lines), Metroway BRT line, Urban footprint similar to HQ1, Airport-DCA, Highway Access(I-395+HOT), Regional Rail (VRE, MARC(future), Amtrak). The main project that is needed is a new Long Bridge over the Potomac to enable MARC service into Virginia with the potential to electrify two tracks of the rail line between Union Station to a few miles west of Alexandria to start the NEC in Virginia. This will enable regional rail transit access from Frederick, Baltimore, Manassas, and Fredericksburg. You may even be able to walk to DCA from CC. https://www.crystalcity.org/explore/transformation/dca-connection-feasibility-study

  6. You know the thing that strikes me here is the advocacy for different locations in the DC area – but not “as is” .. instead.. ” if we do this or that BIG costly things”

    to which I do wonder.. if those things are so wanted.. why were they not done before ?

    NoVa seems to be a lot of ” if only we had done or if only we could do” conundrum parts and pieces…

    So here’s a question – are any of the other “contenders”… ready – as is ?

    Perhaps Amazon could whittle the list down to a handful… if they said “shovel ready”, eh?

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