Is Metro accessibility a factor for Northrop Grumman?
Northrop Grumman has narrowed down its headquarters search to two locations, one in a walkable and transit-adjacent area of Ballston, and the other in a generic, car-dependent suburban office park off the Beltway in Fairfax County.
Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth is urging Northrop to choose Ballston (PDF):
I am writing to you in my capacity as Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and as a retired Navy Captain with a strong commitment to our national security. I urge you to select a Metro station location for your new headquarters in the Washington DC region.Sarah Krouse asked Grumman about transit in her most recent article:
By selecting a site within ¼ mile of a Metro station, particularly one close to your major clients, you will be making an additional commitment to our national security beyond that which you already fulfill.
With less than 5% of the world's population, the U.S. consumes 25% of the world's oil, with 70% of that going to transportation. Sixty to seventy percent of our oil is imported, much of it from unstable parts of the world. By concentrating development near high capacity transit, you can significantly reduce oil consumed by employees traveling to and from work and meetings.
Combine this efficient location with a LEED-Silver, Gold or Platinum green building and Northrop Grumman will be addressing and reducing the nearly 80% of energy use and CO2 emissions that come from buildings and transportation.
Northrop Grumman is to be commended for already having its government relations office centrally located near Metro in Rosslyn. Metro station locations offer employees more commuting options, including transit, walking and bicycling, saving money while also reducing the region's traffic.
These mixed-use, walkable centers provide convenient access to restaurants and other services. We also urge you to adopt a full range of transportation demand management policies including employee transit incentives, carpooling, parking "cash out," and showers/lockers and racks for bicycle commuters.
When asked about whether proximity to transit would play a big role in the decision, Bush said transit access was "always a consideration," and that he found Northern Virginia "very well situated in terms of transit."However, other signs suggest Northrop doesn't seem to be considering being part of a neighborhood as much of a benefit. In an earlier article, Krouse wrote,
Northrop also is rumored to have requested a reduction, if not elimination, of the retail component of the building, something Arlington is known for pushing along the commercial and transit-oriented Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.Northrop also wants changes to the façade, "changes that could add extra time to an already tight deadline." Krouse writes that real estate sources say they're likely to choose the Fairfax office park and that getting cheap land was always the primary consideration, rather than the amenities of the area.
The company might be wise to think twice. According to a new article in the Harvard Business Review (via Streetsblog), many companies are moving from suburban office parks to mixed-use communities, because that's what their employees want.
Still, even most of the benefits highlighted in the HBR article are more diffuse and long-term, like strengthening the overall city and region to attract a better workforce. In the immediate sense, employers don't directly benefit from reducing car trips or pay for increasing them. Employees benefit through better transit or pay through worse traffic on commutes, but the traffic impact also gets spread out to all other users of the roadways. The companies benefit in the long run, but often make choices based on short-term costs and benefits.
As a result, large employers like Northrop have strong economic incentives to choose sprawling areas with cheaper land, where they don't have to worry about sharing any space with pesky retail and only their employees, the region, and the company's long-term competitiveness lose out.
This dynamic often pits more walkable, inner jurisdictions like DC and Arlington against sprawlier ones like Fairfax, but not always. As Fairfax builds Tysons Corner into a real city, they'll face similar issues within the County. Will Metro be enough of an incentive for corporations to headquarter in Tysons, or will they continue to lean toward the easy yet harmful route of picking the sprawliest office parks?
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