Residents raise concerns about housing costs, diversity as Amazon plans move into Crystal City

It has been a month since Amazon picked Northern Virginia as one of the sites for its new second headquarters. However, with all of the excitement of a potential economic boom in the D.C. region, there is also concern about losing the diversity and culture that has made the area unique.

If you stroll down Columbia Pike nearby Crystal City, you will find just about any international cuisine to dine at. These businesses are run by local residents, but they have mixed emotions about Amazon coming to town. On the one hand, they are excited about the potential influx of new customers while they are also concerned about where they are going to live along with their neighbors.

"I was brought home from the hospital just a few blocks from here in a neighborhood called Nauck," said Mike Garcia. "We grew up here in Arlington Forest and my wife and I were lucky enough to buy a home here in the 90s, and it's my hometown."

Garcia is a State Farm agent, a board member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. He vividly remembers the military's base realignment and closure in 2005 that stripped his hometown of tens of thousands of jobs.

"We're looking forward to having workers back in Crystal City, we're looking forward to having them live here on the Pike or visit us for lunch on the Pike," said Garcia. "There is going to be that whole development in National Landing, so we're excited about it. We're really excited that we're going to get back to snuff."

Garcia's perspective is very different from the labor organizations protesting Amazon in New York.

Commercially, South Arlington's vacancy rate is high. Residentially, it has the largest concentration of market-rate affordable housing in the county. But with Amazon's 25,000 employees and their families set to pour in the area, that affordability could become a distant memory.

It is a concern echoed by Garcia and others at an Arlington County public listening session held Monday night. It is one in a series of public meetings aimed at gathering input on everything ranging from Amazon's incentive package to transportation to affordable housing.

"They say 25,000 new jobs," said Nelson Aguilar. "I know a lot of people are probably going to look to move in the area. So development, they are going to make a lot of houses and everything is going to go up through the roof."

"We're concerned that we have workforce affordable housing," Garcia said. "I mean, who is going to work here? We don't want to be a community where we have to go outside for workers."

With a community as diverse as its businesses, there is hope both Amazon and Arlington listen closely to those concerns.

Garcia says he has been impressed with Amazon personally so far. He says the company has reached out proactively to join the chamber of commerce. He thinks it's a small sign that they are willing to seriously address the concerns and needs of his community.