The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday to approve plans for development at Amazon’s HQ2, including the Helix, an up to 350-foot high spiral-shaped tower with indoor meeting spaces and a walking paths on the outside. The PenPlace plan also includes three 22-story office buildings, public park space, and retail pavilions. The vote concludes a year-long public review process, and planning officials recommended that the board approve the plan, noting that it fits within broader goals for Pentagon City.
“We have a brand-new sector plan in place with Pentagon City, and it is really exciting that this first project out of the gate under that new sector plan not only conforms with it, but exceeds it, right,” board Chair Katie Cristol said in summary remarks before the vote.
Cristol said the plan met and exceeded Arlington’s Climate Change, Energy and Environment Commission goals, and would also benefit the community, small business owners, construction workers, and students. Amazon has highlighted the eye-catching design of the tower, green spaces, and public walking paths through the compound. Arlington Community High School will also have a permanent home on the PenPlace site. After a 2018 announcement that Amazon would build its HQ2 in Arlington, the company already has 5,000 employees assigned to the location; the new plans are part of a second phase. The company has a goal to bring more than 25,000 jobs to the area, according to a press release.
Many public speakers at Saturday’s meeting also spoke in support of the plan, highlighting details including the visually unique Helix, the open and sunny nature of the site and its view corridors, and Amazon’s cooperation with advocates concerned about the towers and bird safety. Others highlighted Amazon’s good treatment of construction workers in the first phase of development and space for publicly accessible retail.
Some Pentagon City residents are concerned about an associated increase in luxury apartment density in the area, according to a February press release. Local activists in a coalition called For Us Not Amazon opposed the company coming to Arlington in 2019, and have mocked the spiral shape of the tower, calling it HQ Poo. In a Saturday tweet, they said the project would hurt working families by driving local rent up, subsidies diverting government money away from public services, increased lobbying power for Amazon in the federal government, and through a Regional Security Council to promote policing.
Amazon Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities John Schoettler presented the plan to the board Saturday.
After the vote, he said in an update,
“We’d like to thank our Arlington neighbors and the County Board for their partnership and feedback through the years-long process of designing PenPlace, a project we believe will benefit the entire region. With the County Board’s approval, we look forward to continuing our work with the community as we take the next steps on this journey to build an integrated, innovative, and sustainable second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.”
This article originally appeared in The Virginia Star. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. Republished with permission.