Local Commentary

Editorial: Did We Miss Out on Bezos?

Granted, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA), owner of those underutilized 24 acres adjacent the West Falls Church Metro station, was under no obligation to share their designs to development that parcel with anyone, much less the neighboring City of Falls Church and its 34 acres available and in need of dense educational and commercial development. In December, WMATA submitted a well-thought out schematic for mixed-use development on its site that seemed to catch everyone, including Falls Church and Fairfax Supervisor for that area John Foust, by surprise.

Granted also, it can be seen as merely a placeholder, even if it is a bid to modify the county’s Comprehensive Plan, for whenever down the road WMATA may be ready to press ahead with the plan.

However, for the sake of clarity, let’s not ignore the chronic lack of communication involved all the way around and that fact that, in this case, some serious cooperation could have us in a very different place than we are now.

In this case, it’s “Tight Lips Sink Ships.” Whether motivated by distrust, laziness or bureaucratic inertia, an unwillingness to open up and engage a conversation on the potential of the larger area, overall, has ruled out the prospect for a truly game-changing set of possibilities.

We refer to the one staring everyone right in the face right now: the decision looming by Amazon on where to locate its “HQ2,” its second major headquarters. We know that Northern Virginia, along with D.C. and Montgomery County in Maryland, are finalists in the competition. Will it be in Tysons? Loudoun? Rosslyn? Wherever it may go, it will make a seismic difference, with 50,000 new well-paying jobs for well-educated persons transforming an entire region.

Had WMATA and Falls Church, for example, and maybe with the graduate schools of the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, been talking the last few years, and with Beyer Automotive and Federal Realty joining in the conversation, the assets of the West Falls Church Metro site, including its location (at a Metro stop, spilling right onto I-66), split evenly between two major international airports, its higher graduate educational and superior high school components, and a lot of really cool and hip people living nearby, would have combined for a highly attractive option for D.C. resident Jeff Bezos and his Amazon.

OK, we’d like to believe that, as a major newspaper owner in this area, Bezos keeps up with his competition and therefore may be reading this editorial. Maybe he’d be willing to take up the challenge of ordering all these elements into a row and sizing up how his HQ2 would work here.

He’d have to consider if it would be worth his trouble to 1. Step outside the organized bid process he’d set into motion many months ago and 2. Deal with the headaches of land assembly and all that involves. Hard to imagine it’d be worth it at this point.