Amazon’s HQ2 deal isn’t looking great for Arlington County

By Shannon Liao

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Amazon may have backed out of New York City, but it’s still got one HQ2 left in Arlington, Virginia. A $23 million contract has been drawn up for a county board to vote on March 16th, and The Washington Post saw the terms of the agreement early.

The contract doesn’t require Amazon to provide construction workers with a living wage, what would typically be called a project labor agreement, and it doesn’t ask Amazon to contribute to Arlington’s affordable housing trust fund. Housing fund requests are typically made after a company comes back to Arlington with more specific development plans.

It’s almost as if Arlington is afraid to ask for favors after Amazon reconsidered its deal in New York and withdrew at the last minute. New York was one of two chosen winners for HQ2 last November, and plans were already in discussion. But large protests and opposition from local politicians ultimately convinced Amazon to abandon its plans for a New York office.

All Amazon needs to do in Arlington is hit office space requirements. It must occupy 64,000 square feet of office space by the end of July 2020, 252,800 square feet by 2021, and 5.576 million by 2034. As Amazon hits its office space goals, it will receive partial payment of the $23 million.

On the flip side, Amazon is set to get paid by the county as hotel taxes increase. Amazon’s arrival in Arlington is expected to bump up hotel bookings and lead to a boost in hotel revenue, which the county would then skim off the top to give to Amazon. Amazon will be paid 15 percent of any hotel tax increases. Amazon will also get two days after any Freedom of Information Act requests to take appropriate action or disclose only records that are mandatory to disclose.

Overall, the deal looks like it’s completely in Amazon’s favor, while the citizens of Arlington and workers at Amazon’s site are getting the shorter end of the stick.