Amazon’s Helix gets green thumbs-up
What is now a quiet, achromatic area of Arlington, the National Landing neighborhood in a few years’ time will be a bustling urban area with distinctive office buildings and large green spaces open to the public.
In early February, Amazon.com Inc. released plans for its 2.8-million-square-foot redevelopment of the PenPlace block, including three 22-story office buildings with coworking space designed by Seattle-based architecture firm NBBJ. The jewel in the crown of the development, however, will be “The Helix,” a 370,000-square-foot spiral tower atop 2.1 acres of green space.
Employees will be able to walk around the building on paths lined with native Virginia trees and other foliage. In a nod to The Spheres at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters (which features more than 40,000 plants), the Helix will be open to the public for tours on select weekends.
“When the public health situation improves and as regulations allow, we will continue to see value in bringing our employees together in a physical space to cross-pollinate ideas and foster collaboration,” John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities, said in a February statement.
Later this year, Arlington County’s Board of Supervisors will review Amazon’s proposals, and the e-commerce giant hopes to begin construction at the beginning of 2022, with a 2025 completion date.
Green in more ways than one, Amazon’s PenPlace buildings will run on 100% renewable energy from a Pittsylvania County solar farm. In January 2020, Arlington County and Amazon entered into agreements with Richmond-based Dominion Energy Inc. to purchase power from the farm, which is anticipated to be operational by 2022.
The surrounding PenPlace area will also include more than 2.5 acres of green space for public use, including an amphitheater to host concerts, farmers markets and outdoor movies — a plan that aligns with the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID)’s goal to create more parks and outdoor public spaces.
“One of the things that the pandemic has illustrated is just how equally important it is to employers and employees to have access to great outdoor spaces,” says Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president of National Landing BID, an Arlington-based public-private partnership. “I think we’ll appreciate that even more in the future as we think about outdoor meetings and work-life
balance in new and different ways.”
Amazon plans to host public input sessions for the development with the Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation.