Local Commentary

Editorial: What If Amazon Comes Calling?

We dare not even suggest that Falls Church should try to respond to Amazon’s “request for proposal” for a site to locate a new east coast headquarters, although the temptation will be greater as the board of directors of WMATA votes today to allow all of its real estate holdings to be open for negotiation in such an RFP. WMATA’s got valuable land all over the Metro region and as we all know it’s quite cash strapped at this point.

Amazon says it is looking for a grand space for up to a million square feet of development and 50,000 employees. Now, one acre constitutes about 43,000 square feet, and for the sake of argument, it could harbor 10 times that amount if there were buildings 10 stories high, So in a perfect universe, Amazon could fit comfortably on the combination of 10 acres of the George Mason High School site, the 20 plus acres of underutilized WMATA land next to it, the acreage constituting the Federal Realty strip mall (Giant, etc.), the university grad center site, and over 20 acres that Beyer Automotive has almost completely assembled.

That could be over 50 acres with the following advantages: 1. It is on top of a Metro station, 2. It is just outside of D.C. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would have a very short commute to his Washington Post headquarters downtown), 3. It is right in the lap of two existing major university graduate programs (University of Virginia and Virginia Tech) and top notch public schools, and 4. It would mean having to deal almost entirely with a manageably small political jurisdiction with a minimum of the hassles bigger ones bring.

For its part, Falls Church might hope to get a whole bushel basket of amenities, including world class auditorium or performing arts space, a whole lot of really smart people living moving nearby, and maybe even a big help in building the new high school we need so badly (F.C. Superintendent Peter Noonan let slip at the joint PTA meeting Tuesday that he oversaw construction of a new high school when he worked in New Mexico that a high-tech developer was willing to pay for in its entirety.)

So what’s wrong with this notion, aside from objections that all the usual suspects bring about traffic and density? It’s what Falls Church has been leaning toward all along.

The only thing wrong we can come up with is this: it simply “ain’t gonna happen!” Don’t ask why, but explanations can range from the amount of competition for the project that is out there, up and down the eastern seaboard, to, well, the idea that it’s just plain out of Falls Church’s depth. Hmmm.

Alas, if that’s true, then the takeaway might be that one never knows what opportunities for good things are looming out there, and we should keep our eyes peeled and our powder dry.