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FIRST LOOK: Rendering of Amazon HQ2's 'Helix' building in Arlington

The plan, which includes a 370,000 sq. ft. spiral-shaped building known as the Helix, is scheduled to open by 2025.

ARLINGTON, Va. — More than two years after announcing its plan to build a second headquarters in Arlington, Amazon has released the latest designs in its next phase of development with the goal of setting a new standard in mix-used space within the city.

The Seattle-based tech giant sent the latest designs for more retail, office and public space to the Arlington County Board on Tuesday in hopes of receiving approval and breaking ground by early next year. 

Much like the first phase of the HQ2 project, the latest plan known as PenPlace will still require and welcome extensive input from the community.

PenPlace, which is in Crystal City, is just north of HQ2’s Metropolitan Park. Metropolitan Park is part of the first phase of construction, a 2.1 million square feet project that includes an expanded public area and office spaces. Included in the first phase are two 22-story towers on South Eads Street. The Arlington County Board approved transforming the park’s 6.2 acres in December 2019.

Amazon already broke ground for the new office buildings last Spring. It also renovated office spaces, but they remained largely empty because of COVID-19. Despite the pandemic, development has been right on track.

Credit: NBBJ/Amazon

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“We started construction at the beginning of 2020. We are right on schedule and those buildings in Metropolitan Park will open in 2023. There's been no slow down on Amazon hiring in the Arlington area as well as construction in the Metropolitan Park site. We're right on schedule with PenPlace, so this is about where we wanted to be,” John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President of Global Real Estate Facilities, told WUSA9.

PenPlace is designed to fit approximately 2.8 million square feet of office space in three 22-story LEED Platinum buildings. Representatives for the company said it would be a property that encompasses both the value of an urban neighborhood while also incorporating nature. 

A large focus of the property planning is on renewable energy within the space. Developers hope to have employees in the buildings by 2025.

"These are long term investments. These buildings aren't opening until 2025 so I'm very hopeful that we will be in a much different place by then in terms of being able to return to a more normal routine," Schoettler said. "I think it will have a positive impact."

The plan goes beyond offices by creating nearly three acres for a 24/7 public park that would include a dog run, an amphitheater seating 250 people and public art installations. The renderings also showcase room for 100,000 square feet of retail space, a child care center and 20,000 square feet of community space meant to support education, science and technology but open to community meetings and classes.

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However, the biggest standout is a 350-foot building called the Helix. Illustrations of the 370,000 square feet spiral-shaped building capture a futuristic and architecturally innovative design. 

Much like the Spheres in the Seattle headquarters, the Helix will be an attraction but will host an Artist in Residence program, a meeting center that can hold 1,500 people and an outdoor hill climb garnered with plants and trees from Virginia. The Helix will offer a 360-degree view.

“The receipt of today’s site plan submission is the start of the public review of the next phase of Amazon’s HQ2," Arlington County Board Chairman Matthew de Ferranti said. "The interesting helix design, with its green planting possibilities, will be considered as part of the thorough community review process that Arlington applies to all site plan developments. Neighbors and all stakeholders will have the opportunity to review the design concept in further detail and multiple opportunities to comment. We expect that the plans will come before the County’s Planning Commission and County Board by the end of the year for final consideration.”

Credit: NBBJ/Amazon
"The Helix, an alternative workplace integrating work with nature, will be open to the public select weekends every month," Amazon said.

Representatives said it would be open to the public on certain weekends each month.

“From a design point of view both meant to infuse nature into this place, but it was also inspired by nature. The double Helix is something you find in nature all over the place. And it was interesting for me to do some research on it,” Dale Alberda, NBBJ principal and architect, added. “It has become quite interesting for us as designers to explore that and push that as far as we can in terms of how that building is designed and built.”

There will be walkways for the public and direct access to public transportation, but there will also be a parking garage with room for 2,100 vehicles and traffic lanes for shipping trucks underground.

Credit: NBBJ/Amazon

The company said it would hire 25,000 employees over the course of several years. As of December, Amazon employed more than 1,600 people to fill a variety of roles from finance and accounting to software development.

Amazon recently committed $382 million in loans and grants to create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property in Arlington with the help of the Washington Housing Conservancy.

 Construction last year sparked complaints and a petition from nearby residents who were concerned about the noise. Schoettler seemed confident that those same issues would be prevented as the company works with the community ahead of PenPlace’s construction.

Credit: NBBJ/Amazon

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