After the dramatic A competition that has pitted US cities against each other, years of contentious planning and declarations of unwavering commitment despite the pandemic, Amazon now says plans for a second headquarters, also known as HQ2, are on hold. The company said today that it will delay construction on more than half of the million square feet of space at a campus planned for Arlington, Va., including a twisting tower that is slated to become an iconic landmark in the city.
Amazon, which is still in the process of laying off more than 18,000 corporate workers, has not set a new date for resuming construction in Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Arlington County Council Chairman Christian Dorsey says the county “recently” learned of the planned pause and does not know when construction will resume.
Amazon also declined to provide any timeline for resuming construction. “Our second headquarters has always been a multi-year project, and we remain committed to Arlington, Virginia, and the greater metropolitan area,” said John Schotler, Amazon’s vice president of global real estate and facilities.
Amazon has pledged to use the project, whose first phase already dominates the Crystal City neighborhood in which it is located, to eventually attract at least 25,000 high-wage workers to Virginia. Arlington and other cities, including Atlanta, Georgia, and Austin, Texas, competed to win the project in part to get a tranche of elite workers and related tax revenue. How many people or new tax dollars Amazon will bring to Arlington, or when, is currently unclear.
Amazon originally planned to build its second headquarters in two phases. The first had two large buildings that housed about 2 million square feet of office space, and the second had three more office buildings and a central tower called the Helix, a structure that looked like a cross between a custard and an emoji.
The first phase of HQ2, known as Metropolitan Park, is scheduled to open this June, according to Amazon. But the company no longer has a construction date for the larger second phase and its signature complex, which was originally planned to include about 2.8 million more square feet of office space and 115,000 square feet of retail.
This ratio can theoretically change. While Amazon spokesman Zach Goldstein says Amazon’s long-term commitment remains the same, the pause in construction will give the company more time to explore how to best use its space. In February, the company announced it was ending its flexible, fully remote work policy and requiring workers to be in the office three days a week starting May 1. The regime change is likely to change the way employees use the company’s office space.
“It’s no surprise that Amazon is taking a pause before the second phase begins,” Dorsey said at today’s briefing on the company’s project. “If you look at the world, there is a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead. Everyone in every sector is thinking about their long-term plans in a new light, and unfortunately, not all of us have all the answers.”