Amazon is tapping the brakes on its $2.5-billion HQ2 second headquarters project in Arlington County, Va., announcing an indefinite delay to the start of the program’s 2.8-million-sq-ft second phase, known as PenPlace.
Insisting that the move is unrelated to staff reductions announced by the company earlier this year, John Schoettler, Amazon vice president of global real estate and facilities explained in a statement that the scheduled June 2023 completion of the first phase—a two-building, 2.1-million-sq-ft campus called Metropolitan Park—will provide ample space for the more than 8,000 employees already hired for HQ2, envisioned to eventually host 25,000 technology and corporate jobs.
With Metropolitan Park designed to accommodate 14,000 workers, Schoetteler explained, the company “decided to shift the groundbreaking of PenPlace out a bit.”
[ Related: Amazon HQ2 Puts Concrete on an Embodied Carbon Diet ]
Plans for the PenPlace phase were announced in early 2021, with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. tapped to serve as general contractor. Anchored by “The Helix,” a 350-ft tall tapered glass structure accented with two exterior landscaped nature trails that spiral their way to the top, PenPlace is scheduled to include three 22-story office buildings totaling 2.8 million square feet to accommodate 13,000 employees.
Whiting-Turner did not respond to a request for comment on the delay for PenPlace, which Amazon originally projected could open as early as 2025. An Amazon spokesperson said preconstruction activity at PenPlace that began last year is expected to continue with permit applications and adjacent utility projects.
Clark Construction Group broke ground on Metropolitan Park in January 2020, and continued work on the two 22-story office buildings through the pandemic. Clark has not said whether Amazon’s decision to delay PenPlace will have any effect on remaining work at the campus, which also includes a 2,000-space, below-grade parking structure, street-level retail, new and renovated public spaces, and more than a half-mile of protected bike lanes.
Amazon’s 2018 decision to locate part of HQ2 in Arlington County was considered a coup for the region, as it was expected to spark massive revitalization of an area near Washington, D.C. long-dominated by high-rise condominiums and office buildings that were once predominantly occupied by defense contractors. Rebranded as National Landing, the area adjacent to National Airport eventually became the sole focus of Amazon’s expansion plans when the company scuttled its original plan to locate part of HQ2 in New York City.
Virginia’s economic incentives to lure Amazon included promises of several state-funded transportation infrastructure projects, including adding new entrances to an existing Metrorail station. Other technology-related development is expected to follow Amazon into the area. Whiting-Turner recently topped out the first 300,000-sq-ft academic building for Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus, located at the south end of National Landing.
Although the pandemic and other economic trends have cooled the once-burgeoning technology economy, Schoetteler said in his statement that HQ2 “has always been a multi-year project,” and that the company remains committed to its plans for Arlington and the National Capital Region, which also includes “investing in affordable housing, funding computer science education in schools across the region, and supporting dozens of local nonprofits."