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Leonsis Calls for ‘Rethinking Rules on Verticality’ in Region In Response to Amazon Move

Ted Leonsis, CEO of Washington, D.C.’s Monumental Sports that owns the Capitals, Wizards and Capital One Center, said today that “rethinking the rules on verticality for the use of airspace” in D.C. and the region should be one of the immediate results of Tuesday’s announcement by Amazon to locate half of its new HQ2 operations with plans for 25,000 new employees near the center of the Greater Washington area.

He said he was in New York yesterday, where the other half of Amazon’s HQ2 will be locating, and he said that “they’re going vertical for their solutions to housing and office space” in a similar inner-urban environment, rather than spreading to outer suburbs.

Leonsis joined other regional business leaders in a conference call today coordinated by the Greater Washington Partnership to discuss the impact of Amazon’s decision for this area. Russ Ramsey and Jason Miller, chair and CEO, respectively, of the partnership, Peter Scher of JPMorgan Chase and Sheila Johnson CEO of the Virginia-based Salamander Hotels and Resorts were also on the call.

Leonsis said that the Amazon opportunity will underscore the notion that “If one wins, we all win” in the region, because in collaboration with the new educational initiatives from Virginia Tech, George Mason University and other institutions of higher learning, the Amazon move “plays to our strength.”

Miller said that the partnership will be issuing a “Blueprint for Regional Mobility” within two weeks that will address transportation solutions for the wider region running from Baltimore to Richmond.

He said collaboration with the Urban Land Institute will provide a “housing framework for the production, preservation and protection” of tens of thousands of affordable housing units that are already being required.

The announcement Tuesday of Virginia Tech’s plans for a $1 billion investment in an “Innovation Campus” adjacent the Amazon site in Crystal City/National Landing, along with a major announcement of George Mason University’s plans for an expanded presence in nearby central Arlington, are all designed to generate “a more robust pipeline” for computer science and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-related degrees, which will spur other corporations to invest and grow in the region, it was noted.

A key to kicking this off was a meeting held early this year at the JPMorgan Chase site here where the presidents of the universities in the wider region were all invited, marking the first time many of them had met one another. There, it was found that interest in collaboration was readily evident, which helped advance the establishment, announced by the Greater Washington Partnership last summer, of CoLAB, Capital Collaboration of Leaders in Academia and Business, that may have proven an important step contributing to Amazon’s decision to locate here.