ARLINGTON, Va. — The next phase of Amazon HQ2 is closer to becoming a reality in Arlington.
The Arlington County Board is set to review and vote on the plans for PenPlace on Saturday. The tech giant introduced the project in February 2021, more than two years after it announced building the second headquarters in Crystal City.
The company proposed dividing approximately 3.3 million square feet across four structures including three 22-story office towers with retail space and the 'Helix,' a 370,000-square-foot glass building shaped like a double helix to house an artist-in-residence program, a meeting center and an outdoor hill climb.
The Arlington County Planning Commission unanimously approved the plans earlier this month.
It required extensive community input over several months, which included public tours with developers and planners. Changes were made to the original renderings to add more green space and increased spaces for pedestrian and bicyclists.
With the large development, Amazon said it would become a good member of the community by offering space for Arlington Community High School and providing $30 million for affordable housing initiatives in Arlington. Among other contributions including $45 million in total investments to local nonprofits, community groups, public schools and businesses.
Just before the vote, the company announced it reached a milestone this week by hiring more than 5,000 employees. The goal since the announcement in 2018 was to hire 25,000 employees over the next several years. It is unclear how many of the hires were local.
While there is excitement for the changes, the group Arlingtonians For Our Sustainable Future, which advocates for more accountable development in Arlington, finds the community is not benefiting enough.
"As structured now, Arlington would trade world-record bonus density -- more buildable space -- for unequal community benefits from Amazon," AFS said in a statement. "We are currently suggesting $413.1 million in amenities to include a new school/community center in Pentagon City, affordable housing and education grants, park improvements/tree fund, and transit projects to ease congestion near HQ2."
Anne Bodine of ASF said even if the county votes to approve the plans, she hopes this development would be a reminder for residents.
"We're not opposing Amazon's presence, but we think we deserve a better deal and we hope this deal illustrates what we need to have for every other process moving forward," she said.
"We will continue to engage with the Arlington community to understand how we can best support the issues that matter to local residents," John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities, said in a statement. "Our goal is to build a second headquarters that integrates into the surrounding neighborhood and benefits the entire region. We appreciate Arlington County and the community’s partnership in this process, and we are excited to continue the conversation."
Construction has already begun for Amazon HQ2's earlier phase called Metropolitan Park. It is right on track and should open by 2023, according to the company.
Metropolitan Park sits along Eads Street in Pentagon City. The 2.1-million-square-feet project will include two 22-story office buildings, more than 50,000 square feet of retail space for local small businesses and a 2-acre public park. District Dogs and RAKO Coffee are the first businesses to sign a lease at Met Park.
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