In response to community feedback and concerns, Amazon is revealing some changes to its proposal for the next phase of HQ2 construction in Arlington.
In an update released Thursday morning, the company released new renders of the HQ2 site known as “PenPlace”. The property is located near the intersection of Army Navy Drive and South Eads Streets in Pentagon City.
In addition to a spiral-shaped building that Amazon calls “The Helix”, Amazon wants to build three new HQ2 office buildings there.
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The PenPlace development proposal is in the middle of a lengthy public review process and must be approved by the Arlington County Board before Amazon can begin construction.
Amazon said the updates are in response to community input gathered during this public review process over the past eight months:
We appreciate the ideas and have made changes to improve the overall connectivity of the website. We have also incorporated additional sustainable elements and more greenery into the design and diversified the architecture within PenPlace.
The company said it added more green and green spaces to the design plan and added 5,500 square feet to the planted area on the PenPlace site.
On its website, Amazon said it was done because “local residents told us they wanted more green spaces and native flora” on the website.
In addition, the updated plans include wider sidewalks and protected bike paths. Amazon said it also doubled the number of solar panels on the roof.
Finally, Amazon said it was making changes to the design of three HQ2 office towers surrounding ‘The Helix’ and said it has now given each building a “different character”.
At previous meetings with community members and Arlington County planners, some people said they found the original design of the three office buildings in PenPlace to be too similar and too “bulky”.
“Arlington’s neighbors asked us to look into options to make each of the three PenPlace office buildings look more diverse. They wanted each building to look different from the others to add creativity and uniqueness to the architectural design beyond the helix, ”said Amazon’s online update.
In response, the company said it made adjustments to the building’s facades to “make each base, center and tip more prominent”. Amazon now wants to design the exterior of the three buildings “in a different color and texture, inspired by the local landscape”.
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The changes to the proposed design plans come when Amazon and Arlington County launched a new online feedback form for the project on Thursday. The public has until November 7th to comment on the project using the online form.
After that there will be at least two more community meetings for residents and neighbors to give more input.
“We’ll see how the project develops. The goal is to bring this to the county board for review in March or April 2022, ”said Aaron Shriber, planning director for Arlington County.
On its website, Arlington County has also posted updated project materials that include Amazon’s proposed design changes.
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On Thursday afternoon, the Arlington County’s Site Plan Review Committee resumed the public review process with a tour of the PenPlace site. The tour, which was led by Amazon’s architects for the proposed HQ2 development at PenPlace, was also attended by a crowd of Arlington neighbors and residents.
County planning officials and neighbors asked questions about everything from construction time to traffic flow around the huge project.
“Just to understand what’s coming and what impact it’s having, it’s much better to see it in person,” said Kerri Rowan, a Crystal City resident, who took the tour of the grounds. “I don’t think I understood the scope of the project. That was very informative.”
During the tour, Amazon architects stated that they had spent the last three months revising the PenPlace proposal in response to community concerns.
“We took these very seriously, so we extended the schedule by an additional three months to address these specific concerns,” said John Savo, principal architect at NBBJ and lead architect for Amazon on the PenPlace project.
From a county perspective, Shriber seemed to indicate that the new design revisions are a step in the right direction and called them “very positive changes”.
“One of the big things was a real challenge for the architecture team, how to tell each of the buildings apart. So instead of having three office buildings that all look the same, how can they have their own unique identity? And I think that’s one of the things they were working on, “he said.
However, Shriber also noted that the public screening process is still ongoing.
“I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from the community starting today,” said Shriber. “I think the architects and team responded really well because they heard the community and staff and they are making revisions. And we expect more revisions when we hear more from the community.”
Amazon hopes construction of the PenPlace site will begin in 2022.
Savo gave a little more detail on the project schedule during Thursday’s tour, saying that the first HQ2 office building at PenPlace is slated to open in 2025 while the rest of the project, including the Helix, is slated to open in 2026.
Amazon plans to hire 25,000 employees at its second headquarters in Arlington over the next decade. In September, the company announced that more than 3,000 Amazon employees had been assigned to the HQ2.