In the contest to win Amazon’s second home, it looks like Boston will come up second-best.
The e-commerce giant is in “advanced talks” with officials in Crystal City, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., about locating a massive second headquarters there, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
It is possible the company is in similar talks with other cities. But many close watchers of the Amazon sweepstakes consider Metro Washington the front-runner for one of the biggest economic development prizes in recent memory, especially since Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and has a large home in D.C.
Boston was considered a strong contender after Amazon launched the search for the so-called HQ2 in Sept. 2017, thanks to the region’s universities, tech economy, and skilled workforce. State and local economic development officials ardently pursued the project, focusing their pitch on Suffolk Downs in East Boston and sites along the Orange Line between North Station and Assembly Row in Somerville. They hosted an Amazon delegation in March.
But talks have cooled in recent months. The company’s HQ2 search team did not re-
visit Boston this fall, as they reportedly have several other cities on the shortlist. Massachusetts economic development secretary Jay Ash said Saturday his office has not been in recent contact with Amazon.
Ash did, though, say the state is discussing “other opportunities” with Amazon, a sign the company may expand its already considerable presence here. The retail behemoth employs thousands at offices in Boston and Cambridge and a robotics facility in North Reading. In May, Amazon said it will occupy an entire new building — separate from HQ2 — in the Seaport, with 2,000 employees, as well as holding an option for a second building with another 2,000 workers.
Still, there are signs the big HQ2 prize — with as many as 50,000 jobs — is heading elsewhere.
Citing unnamed “public and private sector officials,” the Post said Amazon has zeroed in on Crystal City, a section of Arlington near Reagan International Airport and the Pentagon. A major landlord there took several buildings off the leasing market in anticipation of Amazon’s desire to be in a location next year, the Post reported.
The company has reportedly discussed details of the opening with local officials, including the timing of an announcement later in November. However, CNBC reported Saturday Amazon is still considering Austin, Tex., and could split HQ2 between the two places.
An Amazon spokesman declined comment Saturday, saying only the company expects to announce a decision by the end of the year.
But after publication of the Post story Saturday, Mike Grella, director of economic development for Amazon, posted this on Twitter: “Memo to the genius leaking info about Crystal City, VA as #HQ2 selection. You’re not doing Crystal City, VA any favors. And stop treating the NDA you signed like a used napkin,” referring to non-disclosure agreements Amazon required its finalists to sign.
A copy of Amazon’s NDA obtained by the Globe through public records requests bars officials from disclosing “non-public information” the company shares, though it doesn’t prohibit discussing local details, such as potential sites.
Either way, there’s little sign suggesting Boston remains in the hunt.
Boston economic development chief John Barros said his office is in contact with Amazon’s HQ2 search team, but has heard nothing new in recent weeks. Real estate industry sources said Amazon has not toured the large blocks of office space in Boston available to lease next year. And while Bezos was spotted dining in Kendall Square last weekend, he also said at an event Thursday that he would follow his “heart” when picking Amazon’s second home.