Arlington, VA

Demolition on the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City is expected to begin soon.

The 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development along S. Eads Street, the first phase of Amazon’s permanent second headquarters in Arlington, was approved by the County Board in December.

Now, construction equipment is being staged ahead of demolition of the two-story warehouse building and parking lot currently on the site. According to an off-the-record presentation given to local civic associations earlier this week, a slide from which was obtained by ARLnow, demolition and site preparation is scheduled to start within the next month or two.

Excavation will run from the second quarter of 2020 to the end of the year, while construction of the above-ground portion of the complex is expected to start in the second half of 2021. Construction and interior work is expected to wrap up by the middle of 2023, according to the presentation.

In the meantime, the growing contingent of Amazon employees in Arlington will work out of temporary office space in Crystal City.

“We’re looking forward to beginning demolition at the Metropolitan Park site in the very near future; some staging activity has already begun,” an Amazon spokeswoman told ARLnow. “Amazon is already here and we’re hiring. As the MetPark site takes shape, we will continue to grow the teams in our leased space in Crystal City, where we now have nearly 450 employees.”

It’s not yet clear whether Amazon will hold a groundbreaking ceremony as work at the Pentagon City site gets underway.

Some local residents, particularly those who live in apartment buildings across the street, have expressed concerns about construction noise from the project. Permitted working hours extend until 9 p.m. on weekdays, we’re told.

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Roads are closed near the Pentagon City mall due to a suspicious package investigation.

The investigation is taking place at the intersection of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S., which is also close to the Metro station entrance and the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration.

Portions of Hayes Street and 12th Street are closed while the bomb squad investigates the suspicious object, according to scanner traffic, though as of 9:55 a.m. the “all clear” had been given and the package deemed non-hazardous. Roads are expected to reopen shortly.

The investigation comes amid heightened security at Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere in the wake of the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian general.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]

HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]

Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]

Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]

Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]

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(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

As ARLnow previously reported, Amazon has agreed to a host of community benefits, including:

  • $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.

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Morning Notes

Home Sale Prices Near HQ2 Drop — “Home prices in the neighborhoods where Amazon.com Inc. is setting up its second headquarters dipped to below pre-HQ2 prices for the first time since the company made the announcement just over a year ago. The median sale price for [the 22202 ZIP code] was $507,500 — a 12% drop from median prices in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

HQ2 May Help Balance Local Dating Scene — “For every 100 single, college-educated individuals in the Washington area, women outnumber men 53-47. And single women with college degrees are coming here at a faster clip than men in the same demographic, census data show… could Amazon’s expansion into Arlington import enough men to give some local women a statistically better shot at love?” [WAMU]

Big Emergency Response in Pentagon City — From Arlington County Police, regarding a large emergency response outside the Pentagon City mall around 8 p.m. last night: “Police responded to the report of a fight. One victim suffered minor injuries.” [Twitter, Twitter]

New Art Installation on ART Buses — “The latest Art on the ART Bus exhibit is up! The exhibit features seven letter-pressed placards that honor Arlington’s 60th anniversary of the seven lunch counter sit-ins from June 9 to June 22, 1960. The sit-ins were peaceful protests to challenge widespread segregation policies.” [Arlington Transit]

Nearby: Alexandria Also Ends Glass Recycling — “Alexandria will no longer collect glass curbside for recycling… Starting Jan. 15, if you’re hoping to get your glass recycled rather than just tossed out with the trash, you’ll have to take it down to the purple bins at one of four facilities in southern Alexandria.” [ALXnow]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Arlington County firefighters are on scene of a vehicle fire in Pentagon City, near the TSA and DEA headquarters and the front entrance to the mall.

A truck caught fire and was fully engulfed in flames, sending a column of dark smoke rising into the air — visible from nearby office buildings and I-395 — around 11 a.m., near the intersection of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S.

The fire has been extinguished but Hayes Street is closed between Army Navy Drive and 12th Street S. Police are helping to direct traffic and preparing to reopen the southbound lanes of Hayes.

A video of the fire, taken from a nearby building, shows a small explosion as someone can be heard describing the fire — apparently to a 911 dispatcher — in the background. (Note: there is NSFW language in the video.)

More via social media:

Photo (top) via Arlington County Police Department. Video courtesy Christopher Chung.

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Arlington’s Planning Commission recommend the County Board vote in favor of several site plan amendments that would usher in the future home of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of Amazon’s request to remove a stretch of 14th Road S., and voted 12-1 in favor of a request to build two 22-story office buildings past current zoning restrictions.

The Arlington County Board will have its final vote on the amendments during its meeting next Saturday, December 14.

The unbuilt portion of 14th Road S. was originally planned to serve private residential buildings, per staff report to the Board. But since Amazon now plans to build its two office towers on the lot, there is “no longer the need for the planned 14th Road segment.”

In exchange for modifying zoning requirements to build said office buildings to an expected 2.15 million square feet — including retail space and a shared underground parking garage — Amazon offered the following community incentives:

The affordable housing contribution would be the largest single infusion of money into the AHIF, which has fallen short of its housing goals in recent years.

“The $20 million contribution to AHIF will allow the County to fund over 200 units of committed affordable housing, which will help meet only about one-third of the County’s annual goal for new units when it occurs,” Michelle Winters, director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow. “This contribution is very welcome, although we know that it is only a small part of what Arlington needs to do for affordable housing in the coming years to help replace some of the thousands of affordable units lost over the past several decades.”

During next weekend’s meeting, the County Board will decide between two options for allocating the funds, per Aaron Shriber of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development: the $20 million will either be divided into three separate payments for a variety of projects, or will be pooled into one, unannounced project within the vicinity of Metropolitan Park.

“The problem is [for the second option], that we need to identify the site, but we would love to use that money for a project — [Amazon] is looking at a fairly aggressive construction schedule, and that means the money would come in very soon,” said Shriber. “I do not think we should take lightly the large contribution we were able to receive.”

Amazon representatives also emphasized the company’s intentions to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with LEED Platinum certification and support for transit and green energy.

“We’re close to completing an agreement on a large solar project and will update you when it’s finalized,” said Amazon’s real estate chief John Schoettler told the commission. “It will fully power our HQ2 campus and will be located in Virginia.”

The upcoming solar field is part of a worldwide sustainability project, the company announced today. The Virginia field is expected to produce 80 megawatts of energy and received kudos from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) for helping “lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.”

(One megawatt can power about a thousand homes.)

The company is also pushing its employees to commute via public transit, bike, or carpool instead of driving solo — despite requesting zoning modifications that would allow one parking space per every 1,100 square feet of gross floor area, over 2,000 spaces total.

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A thus-far unidentified man is facing numerous charges after allegedly fighting a hotel employee and police in Crystal City early Friday morning.

The incident happened around 2 a.m. Friday, just after Thanksgiving, on the 2300 block of Richmond Highway.

Police say a man who was loitering around a hotel lobby tackled an employee who tried to kick him out, then fled, then came back and “began chasing [hotel] employees.” Police arrived as the man tried to flee the scene again, and the man bit and scratched an arresting officer, according to Arlington County Police.

More from an ACPD crime report:

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-11290015, 2300 block of Richmond Highway. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 29, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the male suspect was inside a hotel common area when he was approached by staff inquiring if he was a guest. The suspect was determined not to be a guest and, upon an employee confronting him, the suspect allegedly tackled the employee to the ground and assaulted him, before fleeing on foot. The suspect then returned to the business and began chasing the employees. Arriving officers observed the suspect attempting to flee the business on foot and yelled for him to stop, however, he disobeyed lawful commands and continued walking away. The officer made contact with the suspect and attempted to place him in handcuffs, however, he actively resisted. A brief struggle ensued, during which the suspect attempted to bite the officer and scratched the officer, causing a laceration. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect had also stolen an employee’s personal belongings. The suspect refused to identify himself, was booked under the name John Doe and charged with Assault and Battery on Police, Assault and Battery (x2), and Grand Larceny.

Meanwhile, another assault on police was reported over the weekend, in nearby Pentagon City. A juvenile female theft suspect, who was wanted for other alleged crimes in D.C., spit on an officer, according to a crime report.

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-11300164, 1200 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 5:38 p.m. on November 30, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Arriving officers observed two subjects matching the descriptions provided in a lookout on the metro platform. Officers made contact with the individuals, and during the course of the investigation, the female suspect was determined to be wanted out of Washington, D.C. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, she allegedly disobeyed lawful commands, actively resisting and flailing her body. With the assistance of additional arriving officers, she was taken into custody, however, she continued to act disorderly.  While awaiting medical clearance at the hospital, the suspect continued to act disorderly and spit on an officer. Petitions for Assault & Battery on Police, Fugitive from Justice, Obstruction of Justice were obtained for the juvenile suspect.

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Amazon plans to pay to completely revamp the “central park” next to its future HQ2, with a well-known designer at the helm.

The company and its architecture firm presented the latest plans for its permanent headquarters in Pentagon City to the Arlington Transportation Commission last night, ahead of an expected vote by the County Board on Dec. 14.

Amazon has offered to contribute a record $20 million to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, in exchange for being able to build the first half of its HQ2 bigger than otherwise would be permitted by zoning. The plans include two 22-story towers with a total of 2.15 million square feet of office and retail space.

Also of additional note is Amazon’s proposal for what is currently a modestly-sized and off-the-beaten-path park.

The second phase of HQ2 — the 500,000 square feet of temporary leased space in Crystal City is considered the first phase — would complete the “Metropolitan Park” development that includes four apartment buildings across from the Pentagon City Costco and along 12th Street S. Amazon is proposing to fund “a complete redevelopment of the park” in the middle of the buildings.

After expanding with an additional half acre of space from Amazon — not to mention a pair of new plazas totalling 20,000 square feet — the park will total more than 2 acres. But Amazon and Arlington County have grander plans for that space than the current park’s status as a defacto dog park for nearby apartment residents.

The county is expected to launch a master plan process for the park early next year, seeking community input on planned changes, according to Brian Earle, the lead architect of HQ2. Leading the design process will be James Corner Field Operations, the noted designer of New York City’s High Line.

Corner is “a real preeminent thinker about great urban space to help us realize the potential of that space,” Earle told the Transportation Commission.

Amazon will pay for the design, the public engagement process, the park construction and its maintenance, according to a draft site plan. The expected cost is $14 million, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Adjacent to the park and HQ2, meanwhile, portions of 14th Street and Elm Street are proposed to be flush with the sidewalk, making the streets, which will be open to traffic during business hours, more usable for events and other off-hours activities.

In front of HQ2, along S. Eads Street and extending to the Bartlett apartment building and Amazon-owned Whole Foods store, will be a “linear park.” The thin strip of parkland from 15th to 12th streets would include trees, string lights and cafe seating for the retail space at the base of Amazon’s towers.

The draft site plan describes “café seating associated with retail spaces, passive seating, public art, or programming” to “create open, flexible spaces for seating to encourage social activity” as part of the linear park.

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Arlington County Police are looking for a woman who agreed to give a man a ride but then reportedly robbed him.

Police say an officer was flagged down by the man just after 9:30 p.m. Sunday, on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road, in the area of the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

The man told police that just minutes earlier he had approached the woman in a parking lot and asked her for a ride to his home. The alleged robbery happened after she agreed and he got in.

“When the victim entered the vehicle, she requested compensation,” police said in a crime report. “As the victim pulled out his wallet, the suspect assaulted him and took an undisclosed amount of cash and other items of value from him.”

“The suspect subsequently fled the area in the vehicle,” the crime report continues. “The suspect is described as a white female, approximately 40 years old, with long brown hair. The vehicle is described as an older model gray pick-up truck. The investigation is ongoing.”

Also in the latest crime report, a wanted suspect arrested on a theft charge in Pentagon City is accused of kicking and threatening officers. More from ACPD, below after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Staying Put, For Now — “The chairman of the Arlington County Board says he’s not going anywhere… ‘My personal financial issues do not impinge on my ability to work with colleagues both in Arlington and throughout the region, our county staff and our community,’ Dorsey said. ‘I intend to demonstrate over the next four years those who voted to re-elect me did not make a mistake.'” [InsideNova]

RiverHouse Plans Pick Up Opposition — “JBG Smith’s plans to add nearly 1,000 new housing units to its RiverHouse Apartment Complex in Pentagon City, not far from the future home of Amazon’s second headquarters, now look to be in trouble. Arlington officials and neighbors are pushing back against the developer’s proposal.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Chase Theft Suspect in Rosslyn — “Two suspects allegedly entered a business, concealed merchandise in bags and left without paying. An employee attempted to confront the suspects outside the business and, following a brief scuffle, the suspects fled the scene on foot. A lookout was broadcast by dispatch and a responding officer observed two individuals matching the suspect descriptions walking in the area. One suspect complied with the officer’s commands to stop while the other suspect fled.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

One Argument for ‘National Landing’ — “In 2018 when Amazon announced it would locate its new headquarters in National Landing, people familiar with Crystal City scratched their heads and said ‘that’s not a real place.’ But the name Crystal City itself was also an out-of-nowhere developer creation about 60 years earlier… Before it was Crystal City, it was Brick Haven, so named for its abundant brick factories.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Restaurants Still Waiting for Amazon Effect — Restaurant owners in Crystal City are excited about Amazon’s arrival in the neighborhood, but are not yet seeing tangible benefits in the form of increased business. [Washington Business Journal]

CEO of A-SPAN Retiring — “A-SPAN announces the retirement of its President & CEO, Kathy Sibert. After leading the organization for 11 years, Sibert will continue her role through January 31, 2020. Sibert became the President & CEO of A-SPAN (Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Inc) in 2008.” [Press Release]

Vienna Poaches from Arlington Economic Development — “The Town of Vienna has hired a business development manager in Arlington County to help revitalize local businesses. The town recently announced that Natalie Monkou, an Annadale resident, will be the town’s first-ever economic development manager.” [Tysons Reporter]

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