Ama­zon look­ing at Va. for 2nd HQ

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY JONATHAN O’CON­NELL AND ROBERT MCCART­NEY Wash­ing­ton Post

AMA­ZON HAS BEEN DIS­CUSSING HOW FAST IT WOULD MOVE EM­PLOY­EES AND WHICH BUILD­INGS IT WOULD OC­CUPY.

Ama­zon has held ad­vanced dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing its highly sought-af­ter sec­ond head­quar­ters in the Crys­tal City area of Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, in­clud­ing how quickly it would move em­ploy­ees there, which build­ings it would oc­cupy and how an an­nounce­ment about the move would be made to the pub­lic, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple close to the process.

The dis­cus­sions were more de­tailed than those the com­pany has had re­gard­ing other lo­ca­tions in north­ern Vir­ginia and some other cities na­tion­ally, adding to spec­u­la­tion that the site in Ar­ling­ton County is a front-run­ner to land the on­line re­tail gi­ant’s sec­ond North Amer­i­can head­quar­ters and its 50,000 jobs.

The com­pany is so close to mak­ing its choice that Crys­tal City’s top real es­tate de­vel­oper, JBG Smith, has pulled some of its build­ings off the leas­ing mar­ket and of­fi­cials in the area have dis­cussed how to make an an­nounce­ment to the pub­lic this month, fol­low­ing the midterm elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic and pri­vate-sec­tor of­fi­cials who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause Ama­zon has asked that the se­lec­tion process re­main con­fi­den­tial. The com­pany may be hav­ing sim­i­lar dis­cus­sions with other fi­nal­ists.

Two peo­ple close to the process said that if Crys­tal City was se­lected, Ama­zon was likely to move an ini­tial group of sev­eral hun­dred em­ploy­ees into 1851 S. Bell Street or 1770 Crys­tal Drive, two dated of­fice build­ings that have been tar­geted for rede­vel­op­ment but could be read­ied for oc­cu­pancy by their owner, JBG Smith, in nine months or less. The bid also in­cludes sites in Po­tomac Yard, in Alexan­dria.

“There’s a lot of ac­tiv­ity,” one in­di­vid­ual close to the process said. The per­son added that peo­ple “seem re­ally pos­i­tive, and they seem pretty con­fi­dent. … What we don’t know, maybe there are two or three other sites, and they’re do­ing the same thing. That’s what’s scary to peo­ple around here.”

At a con­fer­ence in New York on Thurs­day, Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos told the crowd: “Ul­ti­mately the de­ci­sion will be made with in­tu­ition af­ter gather­ing and study­ing a lot of data – for a de­ci­sion like that, as far as I know, the best way to make it is you col­lect as much data as you can, you im­merse your­self in that data but then you make the de­ci­sion with your heart.” (Be­zos also owns The Wash­ing­ton Post)

Spokes­men for Ama­zon and JBG Smith de­clined to com­ment, as did Ar­ling­ton County Board Chairkatie Cris­tol.

Alexan­dria Mayor Al­li­son Sil­ber­berg de­clined to dis­cuss whether ad­vanced talks were tak­ing place but said, “We think we’ve put for­ward a very com­pet­i­tive op­tion, and we’re cer­tainly hon­ored to be con­sid­ered.”

Ama­zon.com’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor wasn’t happy about the Wash­ing­ton Post re­port. In a Twit­ter post Satur­day morn­ing, Mike Grella ad­dressed “the ge­nius leak­ing info.”

“You’re not do­ing Crys­tal City, VA any fa­vors,” he wrote. “And stop treat­ing the NDA (nondis­clo­sure agree­ment) you signed like a used nap­kin.” Grella didn’t say who he thought leaked the in­for­ma­tion, nor did he ad­dress the story it­self.

Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam, asked on

WTOP Ra­dio on Wednes­day about spec­u­la­tion that Crys­tal City was the fron­trun­ner said, “A lot of us are anx­iously await­ing a de­ci­sion, an an­nounce- ment from Ama­zon. … A lot of [Vir­ginia gov­ern­ment] re­sources are be­ing ex­pended right now, and I think for good rea­son.”

A spokesman for Northam de­clined to com­ment fur­ther on Fri­day.

Af­ter launch­ing a re­al­ity show-like sweep­stakes for a sec­ond home in late 2017, Ama­zon has ef­fec­tively shut down dis­clo­sures about the search in the past nine months. Twenty fi­nal­ist cities – many of which have spent con­sid­er­able time and money pur­su­ing the com­pany – have lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about where they stand, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials in four other fi­nal­ist ju­ris­dic­tions.

But stock mar­ket in­vestors, on­line bet­ting sites and cor­po­rate re­lo­ca­tion ex­perts have all de­clared north­ern Vir­ginia the fa­vorite to land the so-called HQ2.

Wash­ing­ton-area lead­ers be­lieve the project is theirs to lose, and that Vir­ginia, Mary­land and the Dis­trict of Columbia would all ben­e­fit eco­nom­i­cally. Crys­tal City, with easy tran­sit ac­cess, prox­im­ity to Reagan Na­tional Air­port, and ready-to-oc­cupy of­fice build­ings, has long been con­sid­ered a strong con­tender. The Dis­trict and Mont­gomery County, Mary­land, also are among the 20 fi­nal­ists.

Bet­ting sites give north- ern Vir­ginia the most likely odds of land­ing the project, and stock an­a­lysts have sweet­ened their view of JBG Smith – owner of most of Crys­tal City – as Ama­zon’s an­nounce­ment has ap­proached. An­a­lysts at Stifel Ni­co­laus re­cently up­graded the com­pany from “Sell” to “Hold” and say just the pos­si­bil­ity that Ama­zon chooses Crys­tal City has added four or five dol­lars to the com­pany’s stock price.

In the Wash­ing­ton area, the an­tic­i­pa­tion is grow­ing as hints fil­ter out that Ama­zon is in the fi­nal stages of mak­ing a de­ci­sion. The com­pany ten­ta­tively con­sid­ered mak­ing an an­nounce­ment by the end of Oc­to­ber, but has now put it off un­til Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to in­di­vid­u­als close to the process.

Sharon Bulova, chair of the board of su­per­vi­sors in Fair­fax County, Vir­ginia, where one of the sites is lo­cated, has felt the vibe.

“What I pick up from res­i­dents is en­thu­si­asm,” she said. “They’re ex­cited about the jobs that Ama­zon would bring.”

The ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion is likely to rest with Be­zos. He has a his­tory of show­ing in­de­pen­dence in such mat­ters, such as when he needed a head­quar­ters for The Wash­ing­ton Post shortly af­ter he pur­chased it.

ASTRID RIECKEN For The Wash­ing­ton Post

Many real es­tate ob­servers be­lieve that the Crys­tal City area of Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia, is a lead­ing can­di­date for Ama­zon’s sec­ond, much-sought-af­ter head­quar­ters.

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