Construction on the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City has reached a new milestone, as crews turn to revamping the adjacent green space.
Work on the office complex, located at the corner of 13th Street S. and S. Eads Street, remains on schedule, according to an Amazon spokesperson. The site is comprised of two, 22-story office buildings dubbed Met Park 6 and 7/8 and the forthcoming park area.
Clark Construction, which is overseeing the development, officially got started on the green space — also named Metropolitan Park — last week, according to an email the company sent Friday. Fencing around the site has been expanded to surround the existing park to maintain public safety during this work.
“We anticipate excavation activities will begin in the park area in mid-November,” the email reads.
The existing park space was mostly used as a place for dogs to run around and relieve themselves, though this summer it was home to a farmers market. The new $14 million park — designed by the firm behind New York City’s famous High Line — will feature more than two acres of public open space, including signature landscapes such as a forest walk, an edible garden and children’s play garden, as well as a dedicated dog run and community tables.
“Crews will excavate the existing park, removing 10,000 cubic yards of soil over the next several months,” Jeff King, Clark’s vice-president of construction, said in a video update last month.
This work will move from the edge abutting S. Fair Street to the edge bordering the office buildings, he said. This winter, crews will install drainage and irrigation systems and haul in new dirt to support the future park’s varied topography and vegetation.
“Our construction schedules time with planting seasons, with the first planting set to take place in spring 2022,” King said.
For dog owners nearby, the loss of the green space means frequenting other local parks.
“I know many of our neighbors use the park space daily,” King said. “We recognize that the shared community asset provides the space to walk your dogs, enjoy the outdoors and socialize.”
Knowing this, he said Clark Construction and Amazon spent several months this year sprucing up Virginia Highlands Park.
King said the efforts were to ensure “it’s a great place and a respite for outdoor activities and community gatherings while met park is under construction.”
Amazon helped fund the creation of temporary dog parks at Virginia Highlands Park, along the 15th Street S. side of the park, which were installed earlier this year. Dog owners also have access to a few other parks within a mile of the fenced-off park, including Grace Murray Hopper Park (1401 S. Joyce Street), the temporary “Gateway Green” park (101 12th Street S.) and Long Bridge Park.
Meanwhile, construction crews are completing one floor of the two office buildings about every week and a half, King said.
“Our crews have made significant progress on the site,” he said. “We anticipate topping both 22-story office buildings out in spring of 2022.”
Installation of the building’s façade will continue over the next 12 months, he said. Inside, crews are installing electrical and mechanical systems, sprinklers and drywall.
In its email, Clark noted there will be intermittent traffic stops in the coming weeks on the corner of S. Elm Street and 15th Street S. for deliveries.
Portions of 13th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Elm Street, as well as portions of S. Elm Street between 15th Street S. and 14th Street S., will be closed periodically to maintain concrete pump and truck access. Flaggers will assist with traffic flow, and road users will be able to access driveways, loading docks and entry points for adjacent buildings.
A new farmers market may be coming to Pentagon City.
On Saturday, April 17, the County Board is planning to hear a permit request from the National Landing Business Improvement District about holding an open-air farmers market at the plaza area in the northern portion of Metropolitan Park, about 2-3 blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station.
The farmers market would take place on Saturdays, April through November, from 8 a.m.-noon. However, the market would not start until June this year, National Landing BID spokesperson Ashley Forrester tells ARLnow.
The reason for the delay, writes Forrester, is so that the BID can do more planning in advance and set themselves “up for success in future years” for when there’s a new park.
Metropolitan Park is on the verge of getting a $14 million makeover courtesy of Amazon and its new, adjacent HQ2, with design work from James Corner Field Operations of New York’s High Line fame. That project is expected to be completed in 2023.
The market will be operated by Freshfarm Markets, which runs nearly 30 markets in the D.C.-area including four in Arlington.
If approved, the market would be able to accommodate up to 20 vendors, who would park along 13th Street S. and S. Fair Street.
The staff report notes that the area around Metropolitan Park contains several high-rise, multi-family apartment buildings, so they expect most patrons to the farmers market will likely walk or bike there.
The County Board will review the use permit for the farmers market again in a year, April 2022.
This additional market would give Arlington nine active farmers markets, a number of which have opened or will be opening in the coming weeks.
Pre-ordering is still being encouraged as a safety measure, but all the markets are open for in-person shopping. It’s a change from early last year when markets were briefly shut down due to the pandemic and, then, allowed to reopen only for pre-order sales.
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.
Amazon has unveiled plans for the PenPlace site in the second phase of its $2.5 billion HQ2 in Pentagon City, including a lush office building shaped like a double helix.
The company will build 2.8 million square feet of office space across three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, and three retail pavilions. The focal point will be The Helix: a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
PenPlace will also have three acres of open space with a dog run and a 250-seat amphitheater, for public use.
Amazon will start filing designs and technical documents with Arlington County Tuesday morning, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedó said during a call with journalists on Monday.
The tech giant aims to go before the Arlington County Board by the end of 2021, with construction starting in 2022 and ending in 2025, said John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President Global Real Estate and Facilities, during the call. He affirmed that so far, HQ2 remains on-schedule.
PenPlace is bounded by Army Navy Drive, S. Fern Street, 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street. Amazon owns the entire block after it bought a hotel on the site in September. The hotel is currently being torn down.
Schoettler said Arlington County has given Amazon more flexibility for this phase than for the first phase of development on the Metropolitan Park site, which includes two, 22-story concrete office buildings, retail and open space.
“The County Board told us for PenPlace, we really want you to push the envelope,” he said. “It really gave us a clean canvas to try new things.”
The Helix will be the highlight of the site and the tallest building, said Lead Architect Dale Alberda, who works for the international architecture firm NBBJ and helped to design The Spheres within the company’s Seattle headquarters. Throughout PenPlace, he said, the designs keep employees, who will number 25,000 across HQ2, close to nature and the community.
“Amazon has been challenging us to think about how people can connect to nature not just outside when the weather is good, but inside as well, so that it’s available all day, all the time,” Alberda said.
Schoettler said Amazon is also working hard to use sustainable energy. As part of its goal of LEED Platinum certifications — and to meet its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 — the buildings will be powered by a solar farm in southern Virginia.
The headquarters will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 onsite bike spaces as well as below-ground parking for about 2,100 cars and underground loading zones for trucks. There will also be a new bus platform on 12th Street S. near the main entrance to PenPlace.
Huseman spoke with ARLnow about the goals of the celebration, Amazon’s local charitable contributions, the progress the company is making toward its hiring goals, construction deadlines, and the impact of the coronavirus on work.
“We want to convey that we’re on-track and on-target to hire the employees and we want to convey that we’re deeply invested in the community,” Huseman said. “We want to be a good neighbor and contribute to community organizations as much as we can during these challenging times.”
Despite the pandemic, Phase One of construction — on the Metropolitan Park development site in Pentagon City — continues on-schedule, Huseman said. In this phase, a block of warehouses were torn down and two Amazon towers totalling 2.1 million square feet are being built in its place.
Amazon is also funding the $14 million renovation of Metropolitan Park, adjacent to the first HQ2 phase.
Both Phase One and the park are expected to be completed in 2023, when Amazon expects to open its complex. Until then, it is leasing several temporary office spaces in Crystal City.
The second phase of HQ2 should be ready to present to the community and go through the county’s approval process starting in 2021, Huseman said. That phase is expected to include several million additional square feet at the PenPlace development site, one block down from the first phase along S. Eads Street. Amazon recently bought a hotel on the PenPlace block, with plans to tear it down.
Amazon reached the 1,000-employee mark earlier this year, hiring first in Human Resources, Recruiting and Finance. It has 500 open roles currently, Huseman said, and plans to continue its hiring spree for the foreseeable future.
“We’re on-track to meet 25,000 hires over next decade,” he said.
Amazon is sticking to that number even as it grows in Bellevue, Washington, which some have speculated is becoming the “real HQ2.” In September, Amazon announced it would be increasing the number of hires from 15,000 to 25,000 in the city, not far from the company’s Seattle headquarters.
Huseman dismissed the speculation that Bellevue would be supplanting Arlington.
“We have a presence in the Puget Sound region,” he said. “We are growing there, but the key here is that we promised 25,000 jobs and we’re on target for that. That’s what we’re going to deliver.”
And employees at HQ2 will be doing a “whole range of things” from web services to retail. The Vice President of Alexa International, Rob Pulciani, was one of the first executives to transfer to HQ2 with his team to build “the next generation of Alexa services,” Huseman said.
“Whatever Amazon does, you’ve got people at HQ2 doing that,” he said.
As a result of the pandemic, Amazon employees can work from home until June 2021. Most are opting to stay home but the offices are open with temperature checks, frequent disinfecting and social distancing in place. Candidates are interviewing remotely.
“Working from home is pretty effective and collaborative,” Huseman said. “We are able to communicate with video-conferencing and channels that we have with teams across the country.”
The Board approved a master plan and design guidelines for Pentagon City’s Metropolitan Park, which as currently configured is perhaps best known for being a large patch of grass where dogs from neighboring apartment buildings relieve themselves.
Amazon is picking up the $14 million renovation tab for the reimagined Metropolitan Park, designed — also at Amazon’s expense — by James Corner Field Operations, of New York City “High Line” fame.
The new park, expected to be completed in 2023, will feature lush meandering paths, a central green for gatherings and events, tables for outdoor dining, two 2,000 square foot dog parks, an edible garden, and public art, among other amenities.
James Corner Field Operations conducted its community outreach process for the park design virtually, as a result of the pandemic, with live video presentations and online surveys. The park design is a fusion of several presented concepts, with community feedback taken into account during each step of the way.
The online process won plaudits from at least one of the citizen-led county commissions involved.
“Several Commissioners noted that the virtual public engagement was thorough and well designed and allowed for much broader participation than would otherwise be the case for in-person meetings alone,” wrote Phil Klingelhofer, Chair of Arlington’s Urban Forestry Commission. “We would encourage the County to consider utilizing this virtual method of public engagement going forward even after the Covid-19 restrictions on public meetings have ceased as way to foster greater inclusivity and feedback.”
More on the park’s approval from an Arlington County press release, below.
The design process for the revamped Metropolitan Park near Amazon’s future Pentagon City offices is nearing the finish line.
A final draft design for the park was presented last week, revealing a hybrid of the “Forest Walk” and “Social Gardens” concepts previously detailed by James Corner Field Operations, which designed New York City’s famous High Line. Amazon is funding the design work for the park, which is adjacent to its future HQ2.
The updated design is a “more social version” of the Forest Walk concept that was generally favored in the latest round of public feedback, designers said. It includes:
- Meandering paths
- A “hammock clearing” on the forest walk
- The possibility of public art along the paths
- An overlook
- A central green for gatherings and events
- A day care garden near HQ2
- A “meadow lounge”
- A play garden with playground equipment
- A “community table” for dining amid nature
- A cafe terrace
- A 4,000 square foot dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs
- An Amazon banana stand
The county and the designers are now gathering feedback on the synthesized design, before making some tweaks and creating a final design for consideration by the County Board in September.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The well-known design firm working to reimagine Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City has revealed some of its initial design concepts.
James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York City’s High Line, presented the designs in a virtual public meeting last week, alongside representatives from Amazon — which is footing the bill for the design work and park renovations — and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
The current park, nestled in the middle of a group of apartment building and Amazon’s future HQ2, is largely flat grassy spaces, alongside trees, roads, and sidewalks. Its primary users are the apartment residents and their dogs; Amazon is planning to use part of the park for construction staging.
With Amazon moving in in a few years, however, it’s set for some big upgrades.
“As Amazon has said from the outset we want our Arlington HQ to become a destination that will draw people in, meet the needs of the neighborhood and our employees, and help build a sense of community,” said Brooke Oberwetter, Head of Community Affairs for HQ2. “I’m excited about the design concepts that are being put forward for consideration… with your feedback and ideas we can make sure this amazing space is an asset for the entire neighborhood for years to come.”
There were two overall design themes presented: “social gardens” and “the forest walk.” Some of the potential park features include:
- A central lawn could host 500-1,000 people for events like movie nights
- A children’s garden near HQ2 daycare center
- A fitness garden with exercise opportunities
- A game lawn with lawn bowling, bocce and badminton
- A dog run for both large and small dogs
- A hammock garden
- A play garden
- A community garden and orchard table for outdoor dining among fruit trees
- A cafe terrace and culinary garden with outdoor dining and restaurants in front of one of the HQ2 buildings
- A main promenade, that’s more of a meandering path in the “forest” design
- Several pieces of public art, some of which might be along a shady and meandering art walk
- A large shade trellis that can be used for festivals, markets and a banana stand
A survey conducted as part of the design process found that the top five park uses requested by residents were “sit and lounge,” “enjoy nature,” “stroll and walk,” “attend events,” and “dine and drink.”
The designs call for the removal of on-street parking spaces and “redundant” sidewalks from the roads that run through the park, and the addition of new trees and vegetation. With that and an expansion of the park into part of the HQ2 property, the new Metropolitan Park would have more than 100,000 square feet of space, according to the presentation.
Amazon’s development arm wants to use a portion of the Pentagon City park next to its future HQ2 for construction of the new, permanent office campus.
Seattle-based Acorn Development is asking the Arlington County Board tonight for permission to use a sizable portion of Metropolitan Park — a patch of open space one block from Costco, used primarily by nearby apartment residents — as a staging ground for construction equipment.
“The proposed License Agreement between Acorn and the County will permit Acorn to use the County Easement Area for temporary off-site staging, parking and office trailers in conjunction with the construction,” a county staff report says. The company “will pay the County a License Fee of $10,000.00 per month… during the time the Use Permit is in effect.”
A number of trees are expected to be removed from the park as part of the project, for which Acorn will pay the county at least “$2,400 for every tree it destroys during the process,” according to the Washington Business Journal.
“Arlington would typically expect Amazon to replace each tree taken down at the park… during the staging process,” the Business Journal reported. “But since the trees likely can’t be replanted on site, Amazon would need to pay into the County’s Tree Canopy Fund — money used to maintain the county’s 755,000-tree stock.”
As it builds the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development along S. Eads Street, Amazon will also renovate Metropolitan Park, with the help of James Corner Field Operations, the noted designer of New York City’s High Line.
At its Saturday meeting, the County Board took up another Amazon proposal: to use the nearby PenPlace site, which eventually will be home to the second phase of the company’s permanent HQ2, as a temporary concrete batching plant.
Dorsey Steps Down from Transportation Board — “The Arlington County Board forced member Christian Dorsey to step down from a second transit board Saturday over a campaign donation from Metro’s largest union, and he apologized for misleading statements he made last month suggesting that he had already returned the money. Dorsey (D), who was reelected to the board in November, said he has sent back the $10,000 donation to the Amalgamated Transit Union and agreed to resign from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [Washington Post]
Thousands Attend Buttigieg Rally — Nearly 10,000 people attended Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign rally at Washington-Liberty High School yesterday afternoon. [Twitter, Twitter, The Pete Channel]
Klobuchar Had High Profile Local Landlord — “Chuck Todd — who helped moderate Wednesday night’s Democratic debate — is likely more familiar with one candidate than any other. He was Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s landlord, sources exclusively told Page Six. Klobuchar and her husband, lawyer John Bessler, rented a 3-bedroom home owned by Todd in Arlington, Virginia, sources said.” [Page Six]
Firm Floats Less Parking for HQ2-Adjacent Park — “The green space adjacent to the first pair of Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 towers could be so much grander if it weren’t for some redundant on-street parking. That is what New York-based James Corner Field Operations, the urban design and landscape architecture firm Amazon has enlisted to mold Metropolitan Park’s open space, said Thursday night during the first step of the park master planning process… the site has roughly 50 on-street parking spaces, but there is a significant number, about 350, of underused below-ground spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]
Iwo Jima Restoration Is Complete — “This Sunday, Feb. 23, marks 75 years since brave Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the historic moment, has been completely rehabilitated… The rehabilitation of the sculpture and surrounding parkland, the specially designed onsite exhibits and the new videos were made possible through a generous $5.37 million donation.” [Press Release]
Board Approves Child Care Funding, Park Contract — “The Arlington County Board today approved a contract with Crown Construction Service, Inc. to upgrade heavily-used Edison Park with new playgrounds and other amenities… [and] accepted a $200,000 donation to fund high-quality child care for low-income Arlington families, the first such donation to the Arlington Community Foundation’s (ACF) Shared Prosperity initiative from a private corporation.” [Arlington County, Arlington County]
‘Ball Cap Bandit’ Sentenced — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to five years in prison for robbing two Falls Church pawn shops of nearly $800,000 in jewelry and watches. According to court documents, in July 2014, Budder Khan, 30, entered Route 50 Gold and Jewelry Exchange, forced the store’s employees to the ground using what appeared to be a real firearm, smashed the business’s glass display cases, and took jewelry and watches worth over $650,000.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Phil
(Updated at noon) The Arlington County Board voted unanimously over the weekend to approve the first phase of Amazon’s permanent Pentagon City headquarters.
The vote on the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development along S. Eads Street was not met with the same degree of protests that greeted the vote on Amazon’s $23 million local incentive package in March, though union carpenters showed up en masse to protest what they say are labor violations at Amazon’s under-construction, temporary office space in Crystal City.
Amazon says it fired the contractor in question and pledged to ensure prevailing wages are paid to construction workers, while providing labor compliance oversight going forward, the Washington Post reported.
The first half of HQ2, which is situated around Pentagon City’s Metropolitan Park, will feature:
- Two towers, up to 22 stories high, with room for around 12,500 employees
- An underground parking garage with nearly 2,000 spaces, as well as more than 600 bicycle parking spaces
- A daycare center open to Amazon employees and the community
- Street level retail space with outdoor cafe seating and greenery
- Two new street segments, including a new 14th Street S. and E. Elm Street
- $14 million for an expansion and redesign of Metropolitan Park, from the designer of NYC High Line
- A record $20 million affordable housing contribution
- Sidewalk and streetscape improvements, with new protected bike lanes, bus shelters and utility undergrounding
- A 700-person meeting center that will be available to the county and other users after hours
- Highly energy efficient design, with LEED Platinum certification and use of renewable energy for everything other than backup power and cooking
Empty warehouses and a surface parking lot will be demolished to make way for the 6.2 acre development. The new towers are expected to open in 2023, according to previous public presentations by Amazon.
A second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 at the still-vacant PenPlace site along 12th Street, housing the other half of its expected 25,000 employees, will follow the Metropolitan Park phase. In total, Amazon expects to build 4.2 million square feet of new space.
Also on Saturday, the Arlington County Board “accepted a $200,000 federal grant to provide innovative workforce development services to 50 persons in Arlington and Alexandria who will be negatively impacted by increased development in the area,” according to a press release.
The county press release about the approval of Amazon’s Metropolitan Park site plan is below, after the jump.