Amazon releases phase-one plans at HQ2

Two 22-story towers will be part of the first phase at Amazon's HQ2.

Amazon is on track to hire by the end of the year 400 people for its planned $2.5 billion headquarters in Arlington and Alexandria dubbed HQ2 and National Landing, said Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of people operations and workforce development for the site. 

“We want to integrate into the community here in Virginia and be a positive force,” Williams said. 

Williams told more than 100 attendees at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce event Sept. 12 that the company had already hired 60 HQ2 employees of a planned 25,000. The company selected its HQ2 location due to public transportation, existing talent, its business climate and proximity to Reagan National Airport, which will be within walking distance of HQ2. 

The world’s largest online seller and tech company selected Northern Virginia to build its second headquarters last November after more than 200 cities in the U.S. vied for the site, many offering tax incentives and financing deals to attract the online business giant.

State legislators approved a bill earlier this year that provides up to $550 million to Amazon for its investment into its Arlington headquarters and bringing the new full-time jobs with an average yearly wage of $150,000. Amazon can receive an additional $200 million if it creates an additional 12,850 full-time jobs over the 25,000 promised.

The Arlington County Board approved in March a $23 million grant for Amazon’s HQ2, which will fill 6 million square feet of office space over the next 15 years, according to Arlington County officials. 

Some have raised concerns that the increase in high-paying jobs will make the region’s housing even more expensive, forcing people with low to moderate income to move. 

Arlington and Alexandria plan to allocate $150 million to build 2,000 to 2,400 affordable and workforce housing units in the next decade, and Virginia has committed $15 million a year for five years for affordable housing in areas impacted by HQ2. 

Amazon has also committed to providing $3 million to Arlington for housing and to combat homelessness, Williams said. 

Amazon’s HQ2 will include walkways, greenspace and all of the buildings on campus will include retail on its first floor to encourage employees to leave their office during the day and to open up the campus to the community, Williams said. 

More than 60% of the 53,000 employees at the company’s headquarters in Seattle commute to work without using a car, she said. Part of the reason Amazon selected HQ2’s location was due to the Metro and other public transportation, she said, adding the HQ2 campus will have space to hold 600 bikes. 

Amazon’s existing headquarters in Seattle can have up to 7,000 dogs on a given day, because the company’s policy is dog friendly year-round, she said. 

Amazon’s HQ2 will also continue the company’s dog-friendly policy and the campus will also include a dog park, she said. 

About 1,750 people or 7% of HQ2 employees are estimated to live in Prince William, said Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan.

As a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Anderson said she supported new regional housing goals approved by the board Sept. 11. 

The new goals would add 75,000 homes to an already ambitious goal of 245,000 housing units between 2020 and 2030. The board is also calling for at least 75% of all new housing to be in activity centers or near high-capacity transit and that at least 75% of new housing should be affordable to households with low to middle income. 

Anderson said she hopes Amazon can bring a satellite campus or facility to the eastern end of the county near I-95. 

One reason Amazon was drawn to Northern Virginia was higher education in the region. Northern Virginia Community College officials hope to grow their existing partnership with Amazon in years to come. The community college has worked with Amazon Web Services Educate and Amazon Web Services Academy, said Chad Knights, Northern Virginia Community College’s provost for information and engineering technologies. Both programs are about teaching the next generation of students. 

The college has worked with Amazon to help design an associate’s degree, Knights said. 

Paula Ford, the college’s dean for information and engineering technologies, said the proposed degree will teach students about storage for cloud services and securing and building those services. Currently, the college offers courses that prepare students to take industry certification tests. 

Knights said the college is also planning to partner with Amazon Web Services Educate to develop a four-year technical degree. The college is also partnering with George Mason University, George Washington University and Marymount University, he said. 

The college is also teaching cloud computing, machine learning and data analytics to 15 active Marines, Knights said. 

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