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How Amazon's New Headquarters Could Change Communities In New York And Virginia


Amazon conducted a national search for a city to build a new headquarters in, and today the company announced that it will have two more - one in Long Island City, N.Y., the other in the D.C. suburb of Arlington, Va. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports on the mixed feelings about the company's expansion.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Amazon's search lasted more than a year and drew 238 bids from across the country. But in the end, the company decided it could not do with just one new headquarters and settled for two. So now Amazon will be based in Seattle as always but also in Queens and in Northern Virginia. Here's Amazon executive Jay Carney.

JAY CARNEY: Because the driving factor for us was access to existing talent and the ability to refer or lure talent, it would make the most sense to divide HQ2 into HQ2 and HQ3.

SELYUKH: Carney says the company seriously considered all of the bids from across the nation, and going forward, Amazon is likely to continue negotiating for smaller projects in other places, like a new corporate office in Nashville that the company also announced today. But ultimately, Carney says, for a new HQ, Amazon needed a place that would be easy to sell to potential new hires. So now it's New York and Northern Virginia that are each getting more than 25,000 jobs paying an average of more than $150,000 dollars a year. A note - Amazon is one of NPR's sponsors.

ANGELOS ANGELOU: We were of the opinion that no city in the U.S. can support this project based on the timeline and the criteria that Amazon set up for it.

SELYUKH: Angelos Angelou is an economic development consultant who helps tech companies find new office locations. He says Amazon wanted 50,000 people ready to go in a matter of 10 to 15 years. And that's very hard to accomplish with just one location. But in the two locations it chose, six-figure wages that Amazon touts are already common. Plus, traffic and housing prices are already a challenge. All this is prompting a new wave of criticism for the company.

DANA AUSSENBERG: This neighborhood has already really scaled up very quickly.

SELYUKH: Dana Aussenberg lives in Long Island City.

AUSSENBERG: Great for Queens and great for Long Island City. But there's just a lot of issues that need to be fixed first. And, you know, as someone who's been living here for seven years, I don't want to be pushed out.

SELYUKH: And here's Ron Lafond who works in Crystal City in Arlington.

RON LAFOND: It's good for the higher-end workforce in terms of options. I obviously have concerns about parking and transit and...

SELYUKH: For Crystal City, there was another surprise in the news today - its own name. The local developer has started calling it National Landing to woo Amazon. The neighborhood has been stagnant with many office towers, so locals here are generally optimistic about the prospect of Amazon jobs even as the company is slated to benefit from half a billion dollars in financial incentives.

In New York, however, city and state politicians are raising major concerns about the incentives. They're even higher there at $1 1/2 billion. But for most residents, the biggest concerns are housing prices and road congestion.

KATIE CRISTOL: My name is Katie Cristol. I'm the chair of the Arlington County Board.

SELYUKH: Cristol is also a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, so I didn't even have to finish my question to her.

Holy cow, 25,000...

CRISTOL: (Laughter) That seems like a lot of cars.

SELYUKH: Cristol says the county plans to invest in roads, better access to the metro, bus routes, more affordable housing. And she says public transit is actually underused in Crystal City.

CRISTOL: I know it can feel counterintuitive. We know Northern Virginia has some of the nation's worst traffic. But by and large, there's a transportation or transit infrastructure here in Crystal City that's hungry for more riders.

SELYUKH: She hopes those new Amazon workers help pay for it all by buying 25,000 metro cards. Alina Salyukh, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.