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In National Landing, Investments In Transportation And Construction Pave The Way For A Bright Future

A rendering of the future of National Landing.

National Landing is one of the most talked-about regions in greater D.C..

This community, which straddles Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, made a major splash in 2018 when Amazon announced it would be home to its new headquarters, dubbed HQ2. The news, which was also the genesis of the area's name, jump-started investment in office, retail and residential space in the region’s three distinct neighborhoods, Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. It is poised to become a major commercial hub near the nation’s capital. 

But a great deal has changed since Amazon’s big reveal, and the coronavirus pandemic has stalled construction across the country, including in some of its most promising areas. Construction at National Landing, however, carried on throughout. 

Matt Kelly, CEO of real estate investment trust JBG Smith, which is developing several projects in National Landing including Amazon’s HQ2, told The Washington Post in November that all of the company’s National Landing projects are on schedule. The company recently completed renovations on Amazon’s new temporary office building in the area, which the tech giant plans to use while it waits for HQ2 to be completed. 

JBG Smith has also received final approvals and is now moving forward with the initial phases of its Potomac Yard development, which will comprise nearly 2M SF of office, educational and multifamily buildings, as well as public and private open space. 

“Working with a host of public and private sector partners, we are making tremendous progress on our collective vision for National Landing as the D.C. region’s premier urban center and a hub for innovation economy companies, animated by dynamic offices, a variety of housing options, diverse retail offerings and abundant parks,” JBG Smith Executive Vice President of Development Kristi Smith said. “We are moving full steam ahead on construction at Metropolitan Park, the first phase of Amazon’s ground-up headquarters in National Landing, and remain on schedule for a 2023 opening.”

Residential construction has also continued to flourish during the pandemic. Chris LeBarton, a senior market analyst with CoStar, told the Post that nearly 1,000 new apartments opened and began leasing between October 2019 and October 2020. In Potomac Yards, residential projects The Sur and The Clark came online during the pandemic. Additionally, Amazon announced last week that it will invest $2B to build affordable housing in three U.S locations, including Arlington County.

“We are seeing tremendous interest in National Landing from an office and retail perspective,” said Marian Marquez, director of business investment at Arlington Economic Development. “The development of Amazon’s HQ2, along with JBG’s exciting plans for new restaurants, entertainment venues and street-level attractions, has really positioned NL as a prized location for companies who want to be part of this growth and we’ve seen momentum even during the pandemic.”

A rendering of a future Metro stop in National Landing.

Working to help local businesses

National Landing hasn't been immune to the impacts of the pandemic. Several businesses have closed in the area in the past few months, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Bar Louie and sports bar Champps. But local organizations have been stepping in to help. 

National Landing BID President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said during the Bisnow Future of National Landing webinar in September that the BID was able to use a grant program to support 75 local businesses during this difficult time. Since then, the BID has continued its efforts to support local restaurants, retail and hospitality businesses and is currently developing a robust plan to help them make it through to the other side of the pandemic. 

“Small businesses and hospitality are the backbones of our area’s identity and vitality,” Gabriel said. “Ensuring that we support them in this time of acute need is very important. To that extent, we are developing a multifaceted approach that includes marketing and promotion that encourages people to spend locally.” 

Gabriel added that the BID is teaming up with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington to promote the area’s restaurant week and is sharing resources and webinars with the local business community. 

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. National Landing hospitality workers who may be struggling during this time can turn to the area’s Hook Hall Helps location. This organization has been serving thousands of meals to hospitality workers throughout the greater D.C. region. In National Landing, the Hook Hall Helps outpost is located at The Freshman in Crystal City, a recently completed restaurant whose owner, Nick Freshman, has donated the space to the organization until the restaurant is ready to open. 

Moving forward with a focus on mobility

One of National Landing’s largest upcoming projects is a multibillion-dollar transportation plan designed to make the area the most well-connected downtown in the country. The plan consists of eight major transportation projects that will, among other things, expand heavy rail services such as Amtrak, Maryland Area Regional Commuter and Virginia Railway Express, create 4 miles of new protected bike lanes and turn an existing elevated highway into an urban boulevard to promote walkability. 

“We’re bucking the trend, most transit systems in commercial centers across the country are experiencing a decline in transportation investment and ridership because of COVID-19, but in National Landing, we’re doubling down on transportation,” Gabriel said. “The goal is to deliver next-generation mobility to position the area to have a competitive advantage.” 

She added that National Landing is already the largest walkable downtown in Virginia, comparable to downtown Oakland or downtown Austin. With the commercial developments currently on the books, the area will soon be the size of downtown Miami. 

Gabriel said that along with the area’s massive investment in transportation, there have also been efforts to provide more open public spaces. Long Bridge Park is expected to open its esplanade in the spring along with an aquatic center, and designs for two new signature parks were recently approved. 

“We’re using this moment to plan for the future,” Gabriel said. “The county is currently planning for the future of Pentagon City and there is a study underway that will really lay the groundwork for future transit-oriented development and growth.”