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D.C. Pitching 4 Sites For Amazon HQ2, Including NoMa, Anacostia And Shaw

The District of Columbia has unveiled the four sites it will propose to Amazon to land the e-commerce giant's $5B second headquarters, combining dozens of development parcels in four emerging neighborhoods to create the bids. 

A rendering of the proposed Amazon HQ2 site on the Anacostia Riverfront, including parcels in Capitol Riverfront, Buzzard Point and Poplar Point

The Amazon HQ2 request for proposals, released on Sept. 7 with an Oct. 19 deadline, called for 8M SF of development and said it would create 50,000 new jobs. 

With Amazon's nine-page RFP being light on specifics, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner said the city saw this as an opportunity to market itself and showcase its top possibilities. Based on discussions with Amazon, he expects the company will then narrow it down to a list of finalists, provide more information on what exactly it seeks and conduct detailed interviews.  

“This is the kind of company that is thinking about where they are going to be in 100 years,” Kenner said. “From our perspective, D.C. is that place. We are a global capital and are going to be relevant 100 years from today in the same way we are today.”  

Anacostia Riverfront

The first site D.C. proposed straddles the Anacostia River, including 16.9M SF of potential development on both sides of the river in Capitol Riverfront, Buzzard Point and Poplar Point

After the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development sent out a notice to the development community asking for ideas for the proposal, separate groups owning land on Capitol Riverfront, Buzzard Point and Poplar Point began to collaborate among themselves, Capitol Riverfront BID President Michael Stevens said. They decided to work together and put each of these pieces into a joint Anacostia Riverfront proposal, he said. 

The campus would be separated by the river, but a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge that would include walking and biking paths is already in the works, and Stevens said he envisions water taxis shuttling back and forth across the river. 

"They would be integrated into a maturing neighborhood with strong amenities, a sports and entertainment base, and it gives them the advantage of being on the water," Stevens said.

A map showing the parcels included in D.C.'s Anacostia Riverfront proposal for Amazon HQ2

The first phase of this proposal would include two sites near National Park, Parcel A of The Yards and 25 M St. SE (currently the location of the Bullpen gathering place), plus one site on the tip of Buzzard Point. The three parcels would total 1.4M SF of development and be scheduled for a 2019 delivery. 

After that, the proposal calls for another 7.2M SF to be built on Akridge's 2.4M SF Buzzard Point site, another parcel east of the D.C. United Stadium, plus several more parcels at The Yards and a piece of Poplar Point, an area across the river where Redbrick LMD has plans for 2.3M SF of development

The final phase includes another 8M SF of development potential, with more than half of that on Poplar Point, plus MRP Realty's Buzzard Point and Dock 79 Phase 2 sites and the Pepco Plant and Steuart waterfront sites to the east of the soccer stadium. Those pieces would be slated for a 2022 delivery. 

“We feel like we’re taking on lessons learned from the opportunities that The Wharf project and the Capitol Riverfront have seen,” Kenner said. “We have been trying to better utilize our waterways.”  

NoMa-Union Station

A map showing the sites in NoMa and the Union Market area that D.C. is proposing for Amazon HQ2

The second proposal would include nearly all of the remaining development sites in the NoMa neighborhood, plus most of the parcels around Union Market and the Burnham Place development over the Union Station rail tracks. 

It would begin with Douglas Development's Uline Arena, an already-completed project with over 100K SF of available office space, and the first phase would also include JBG Smith's Lacebark Alley, Skanska's Tyber Place, Tishman Speyer's 1150 First St. NE and MRP Realty's Washington Gateway Phase 2, all shovel-ready projects that would be scheduled for completion by 2019. 

“One of the main strengths of this proposal is that it is plug-and-play for Amazon,” NoMa BID President Robin-Eve Jasper said. After the RFP release, Jasper said she jumped on a call with many of the neighborhood's landlords, who agreed NoMa could support the campus. “The space is already entitled and ready to go. It’s all in private hands and people can move to action very quickly.”  

The proposal then goes on to include most of the Union Market area development pipeline, including Kettler's Market Terminal, JBG Smith and Gallaudet University's Sixth Street development, plus Foulger-Pratt's development site on the other side of Florida Avenue. Each of those developments is currently held up in the D.C. Court of Appeals by a single group that has challenged their Zoning Commission approvals. The second phase would also include several additional NoMa sites on the west side of the tracks. 

The final phase of this proposal would be Akridge's Burnham Place, a 2.5M SF development planned above the Union Station rail tracks. This proposal benefits from its accessibility, with Union Station allowing for Amtrak trips up the Northeast corridor, MARC trips to Baltimore and VRE trips to Virginia. 

“They prioritize transportation,” Kenner said. "The number of people that go through Union Station in a year is equivalent to the people that travel in Reagan and Dulles airports combined. We feel like we have the equivalent of two major airports in the middle of our city.”  

Capitol Hill East

A rendering of the Hill East site D.C. is proposing for Amazon HQ2

The Hill East site would allow for a self-contained campus with no gaps in between parcels, unlike the other proposals. It would sit on D.C.-owned land south of RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory on the western bank of the Anacostia River.

The first phase of this proposal would feature a 612K SF building on the corner of Independence Avenue SE and 22nd Street SE. That would be followed by 7.5M SF in about a dozen buildings around a central park, with Anacostia Park leading down to the water on the eastern edge. 

The site is home to District facilities that would likely need to be relocated, including the D.C. General Homeless Shelter and the D.C. Jail. The campus would sit next to a two-building development that Donatelli Development and Blue Sky are planning with about 350 units and ground-floor retail. 

Kenner said the Amazon campus could be integrated with the redevelopment plans the city is working on for the RFK site, and he emphasized the appeal of this site's location on Capitol Hill.

“They would have really great sight lines back through to the monument and the White House and Capitol,” Kenner said. “This is an iconic location in D.C.”  

Shaw-Howard University

A sketch of the Shaw-Howard U site D.C. is proposing for Amazon HQ2

The final proposal includes 6M SF of development around Howard University and the Shaw neighborhood.

The first phase would be 586K SF on the Howard Town Center site at 2416 Georgia Ave. NW, followed by another 1.3M SF on two adjacent parcels. The third phase would then include 822K SF on two noncontiguous, D.C.-owned parcels: the D.C. Housing Finance Agency site at 815 Florida Ave. NW and the Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs at the corner of 14th and U streets NW. The final phase would be 3.3M SF across Georgia Avenue from the first phase on the Howard University Hospital site. 

“The Shaw-Howard site being anchored by a world-class educational institution could provide interesting partnership opportunities,” Kenner said. “It is also in our unofficial tech area, which is the Shaw community. There are a lot of technology and innovative companies, and it happens to be a fairly young neighborhood.”  

The District's sites will not only compete with markets around the country, but also with D.C.'s neighbors. Each of the surrounding jurisdictions is submitting their own proposals, though there have been some efforts toward regional collaboration. Loudoun County and Fairfax County are teaming up to offer a 26-acre site near Dulles Airport. Maryland said late last week it is prepared to offer Amazon the largest incentive package in the state's history "by a mile."

Kenner said D.C. is also ready to offer large incentives, though it would ensure they are performance-based and provided benefits for the District. He also said, given Amazon's long-term vision, he thinks the company will be focused more on the story of how a city would position the company well for the future, rather than on short-term financial incentives. 

"We’re going to be aggressive with incentives, but that’s not what we’re leading with," Kenner said.