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Can Amazon Really Rename a Neighborhood?

Amazon awarded HQ2 to Northern Virginia’s “National Landing.” Locals know it as Crystal City. For neighborhood boosters, it’s a shot at a much-needed rebrand.
Artist's rendering for how Amazon will change Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.
Artist's rendering for how Amazon will change Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.JBG Smith

Amazon surprised almost no one last week when it announced that it would split its “HQ2” between two neighborhoods: New York’s Long Island City and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City. Or, make that Northern Virginia’s National Landing—a neighborhood that basically nobody in the Washington area had ever heard of before. That part, at least, raised some eyebrows.

National Landing, in essence, represents an aggressive rebranding campaign from Amazon and its new partners in Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. The name was chosen by local economic groups and the area’s lead developer, JBG Smith, who have been working on creating an overarching brand for three existing neighborhoods: Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard. (To complicate things more, the “National Landing” brand is intended to encompass those three neighborhoods, but they’ll each retain their distinct names, too. So Amazon will be in both National Landing and Crystal City.)