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Amazon unveils first buildings in HQ2 with pomp and circumstance

Following the lead of drummers with the Alexandria City High School marching band, an audience filed into a new auditorium Amazon built in Pentagon City.

Members of the Arlington County Board, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and Amazon corporate employees filled the first few rows of seats.

When the band stopped playing, and applause petered out, Amazon’s Vice President of Economic Development Holly Sullivan took the stage. She introduced a cast of dignitaries, all here for a long-anticipated reason: to cut the ribbon for the first phase of Amazon’s second global headquarters, dubbed Metropolitan Park, or Met Park.

Approved in 2019, work started on the first phase in early 2020 and continued despite the pandemic. It is composed of two towers — named Merlin and Jasper — which span 2.1 million square feet at the corner of S. Eads Street and 15th Streets S.

At their base are a host of shops, restaurants, a preschool, and a publicly accessible park with a dog run (which already had dogs running around), a sculpture garden and water feature.

In his remarks, Youngkin listed these and more features, joking the second campus “should be HQ1” — instead of its first headquarters in Seattle. He applauded Amazon for its commitment to Arlington.

“We celebrate this partnership as it is building a better and brighter future right here in Virginia,” he said. “The Amazon team is truly engaged fully, not just in their business, but in Virginia. So thank you.”

Of Arlington, the governor said the county “is in a critical drive of not just economic development, but future development for our nation and our world.”

Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey emphasized the ways Amazon offset its arrival — and the predicted housing crunch it would cause — through millions of dollars invested in affordable housing. This increased Arlington’s stock of affordable units by about 20%.

“Amazon found what it needed here in Arlington. But Arlington was also looking for someone. We looked to Amazon to look to our community and its values and embrace them as their own,” Dorsey said.

Another value was sustainability, according to Lee DeLong, Clark Construction Capitol Group CEO. The building is carbon neutral and draws energy from a solar farm the tech company helped to fund in southwestern Virginia.

“This building features embedded carbon dioxide, removing it from the environment to reduce construction waste,” he said. “Over 82% of the debris was recycled and therefore diverted from landfills.”

The mood today celebrated everything achieved until this point — but there is still work to do.

For starters, some construction is ongoing and employees are still moving in, according to Sullivan.

“We’re continuing construction on our upper floors right now,” she told ARLnow after the event. “We’re soon going to bring teams in — team by team — to work out any kinks within their space. By the fall we will have all 8,000 employees moved into Met Park.”

Amazon says its $2.5 billion investment in HQ2 and the surrounding area will result in a total of 25,000 Amazon jobs by 2030.

The second phase, PenPlace, with its glassy double-helix building and additional office buildings, is currently paused. Sullivan told ARLnow there was no specific timeline for pre-construction work to resume, though the pause may only be a year.

Once entirely open, HQ2 will “triple” the number of street-level retail storefronts — largely small and minority-owned businesses — in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard — collectively referred to as National Landing — JBG Smith Development Officer Kai Reynolds said.

State transportation projects that Amazon’s arrival catalyzed have years to materialize, too, including dropping Route 1 to at-grade and building a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to National Airport.

In the meantime, community members and their dogs can get a glimpse of their new, tech giant neighbor during a free event hosted by Amazon on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at 510 14th Street S. There will also be a farmers market at Met Park every Saturday this season.

Community Day poster (courtesy Amazon)

Vivian Hoang contributed to this report 

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