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Arlington and Amazon Kick Off HQ2 Phase 2 Review Process

Arlington County has kicked off the review process for PenPlace, the second proposed phase of Amazon’s HQ2.

For PenPlace, located at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street, Amazon is proposing 3.3 million square feet of solar-powered office space divided among the lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and three, 22-story office buildings with ground-floor retail.

The 11-acre site, which could accommodate up to 16,000 employees, will also have 2.5 acres of public open space, three retail pavilions and child care. A network of 2,100 parking spaces and loading areas for trucks will all be underground.

And, of course, there will be the “The Helix,” the distinctive building described as “a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

County officials say there will be numerous opportunities for virtual public engagement and are encouraging people to get involved in the process. The County Board is anticipated to hold a public hearing on PenPlace by the end of 2021.

“We have always had a highly engaged community and we’re proud of the valuable input that we use to fashion the best possible outcomes,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said during a meeting last night (Thursday) that kicked off the review process.

He added that Arlingtonians “are civically minded, they’re knowledgeable, and they so often bring us the best ideas that add to original plans that have been put forward.”

County Manager Mark Schwartz said the review process will resemble the process for Metropolitan Park — the first permanent HQ2 phase — which the County Board approved in December 2019 and is set to be complete in 2023. Located near S. Eads Street and 15th Street S., Met Park features 2.1 million square feet of office space across two towers and 2.5 acres of public park space.

“We are starting the process — there’s a road ahead of us,” Schwartz said. “It’s a proposed plan and we’re going to have a lot of conversations with the community.”

John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president for global real estate, said the public input for Met Park proved valuable as Amazon mapped out PenPlace.

“The PenPlace design plans build on the community input we received during the Metropolitan Park approvals to raise the bar even further on accessibility, design innovation and sustainability,” he said, adding that Amazon is aiming for LEED Platinum certification for its PenPlace buildings.

Over the course of the next 10 months, online engagement opportunities will be held at multiple points in the process.

In April and May, the Long Range Planning Committee will consider how Amazon’s project fits into the county’s plans for future development in the area and will take input from nearby civic associations, property owners and county commissions.

Then, the Site Plan Review Committee will take over, during which time the committee can ask Amazon to make changes based on their reviews and community feedback. After the SPRC, PenPlace will go to the Planning Commission before going to the County Board for approval.

Meanwhile, the Department of Parks and Recreation will lead a review of public spaces in the area as part of a Park Master Planning Process. Community members will also be able to provide feedback on this process during online engagement opportunities and through online questionnaires, county staff said.

At the county’s request, an in-depth multimodal transportation assessment is also ongoing, Gorove Slade Transportation Planner Dan VanPelt said. The principal focus will be weekday rush hour traffic, although some attention will be paid to weekend retail traffic, too, he said.

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