After the drama With competition pitting US cities against each other, years of debated planning and claims of unwavering commitment despite the pandemic, Amazon now says plans for a second headquarters, aka HQ2, are on hold. The company announced today that it will make up more than half of the multimillion-square-foot campus planned for Arlington, Virginia, including the spiraling tower that will become the city’s signature landmark.
Amazon, which is in the process of laying off more than 18,000 workers, has not set a new date for resuming construction in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said the county learned “recently” of the proposed break and did not know when construction would resume.
Amazon declined to give any time frame for construction to resume. “Our second headquarters is always a multi-year project, and we are committed to Arlington, Virginia and the Greater Capital Region,” said John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities.
Amazon has promised to use the project, the first phase of which will control the Crystal City neighborhood, to eventually bring at least 25,000 high-paid workers to Virginia. Arlington and other cities, including Atlanta, Georgia and Austin, Texas, competed to win the project for graduate workers and associated tax revenue. It’s unclear at this time how many people or new tax dollars Amazon will bring to Arlington, and on what timeline.
Amazon originally planned to build the second headquarters in two phases. The first proposed two large buildings of about 2 million square feet of space, while the second consisted of three office buildings and a central tower called the Helix, a structure like a cross between a cucumber spiral and a pop emoji.
The first phase of HQ2, called Metropolitan Park, is scheduled to open in June this year, according to Amazon. But the company no longer has a date for building the larger second phase and signature tower, all of which were originally planned to include about 2.8 million more square feet of office space and 115,000 square feet of retail.
That ratio could theoretically change. Amazon spokesman Zach Goldstein said Amazon’s long-term commitment remains the same, but the construction pause will allow the company more time to study how best to use the space. In February, the company announced that it would end its flexible and entirely remote work policy and require employees to be in the office three days a week starting May 1. The regime change may change how employees use the company’s office space.
“It’s not surprising that Amazon is pausing before starting the second phase,” Dorsey said in a brief call today about the company’s project. “If you look at the world, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future. Everyone from every sector is rethinking their long-term plans, and unfortunately, we don’t all have answers.