Local Commentary

Editorial: Welcoming Amazon

For our money (although we don’t have as much of it as Jeff Bezos by a very long shot), we are thrilled by the announcement that Amazon will be bringing half of its HQ2 expansion to Northern Virginia. Given the rate that the region has been growing overall, and that Apple still has to decide where in the D.C. Metro region it wants to put its second national headquarters (having already said it will be somewhere around here), the addition of Amazon is only in keeping with what’s already been underway for a long time and should be welcomed in that context. In this case, however, it is the clear effect of a major commitment to the cultivation of a highly educated population, signaled by Virginia Tech’s announcement of a $1 billion “Innovation Campus” adjacent the Amazon site that is even more exciting and promising for everybody in this wider region.

Words like “innovation,” “science” and “education” represent a balm to an ailing world where humanity has, after all, made astounding gains in spite of everything in this modern era. With these come opportunities to cultivate attitudes of generosity, tolerance and the positive acceptance of all in our diverse human community, and that in turn helps steer gains in science and technology toward more compassionate and peaceful outcomes. Heaven knows we need all the above.

So, that Amazon coming will mean new problems to be tackled goes almost without saying, but problems are grist for problem solvers, those who take challenges such as we’ve been facing with the region’s growth all along as causes for action and constructive solutions. We are blessed with an abundance of such folks, and they will have fresh new capital flows arising from an acceleration in growth to help develop meaningful answers to problems like affordable housing, an end to poverty and homelessness, and the environment.

The City of Falls Church in this evolving matrix stands to gain enormously, doing so without having to bear any of the costs of subsidizing Amazon’s expansion. The City has been on a path of measured growth and environmental sustainability for almost two decades, and as such is proving itself uncommonly fit to reap the benefits of the Amazon news, offering Amazon’s 25,000 new high-paid employees a uniquely affable living and lifestyle opportunity in the neighborhood.

If the City needs to do anything special in response to this week’s news, it should be to prepare for a wider array of office space and housing opportunities, including a lot of affordable housing. Places like the West End and East End (this week being the subject of an Urban Land Institute “Technical Assistance Panel” evaluation) should go further to relax height limits, being sufficiently distant from tree-lined single family residential areas to not erode the quality of life there. This will be needed to offset the explosion in home values bound to occur.