Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Amazon second headquarters "****show": Part 1 | Where could it go?

Amazon has set off a massive flurry of local and state government responses to their issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the development of a "second" headquarters with a planned for headcount of 50,000 employees.

The company stated it would like to develop a second headquarters away from Washington State and will chose a location based on the following criteria:

- Metropolitan areas with more than one million people
- A stable and business-friendly environment 
- Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
- Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options
+ incentives in cash, land, and other considerations.

Responses are due October 19th and a decision will be made next year.

The print media across the country has been covering various local responses. I can't keep up.

Is it worth preparing a bid?  Mostly, I think it's a losing proposition, because a lot of time and effort has to be expended to prepare a credible proposal, and ultimately, you have to handicap your chances based on what your community has to offer and its place values versus the likely motivations of the company, rather than strictly being cheerleaders for your particular region. 

Henry Grabar at Slate wrote early ("Your city will lose the contest for Amazon's new HQ") after the announcement handicapping communities based on their existing base of talent, size, cost to acquire and build office space, and more residences, location, and whether or not the firm would be accommodated in new (greenfield) or existing (infill) places

Personally, I think Amazon wants to have a headquarters in an area with a decent quality of life, but are likely to seek favor with conservatives/Republicans as columnist Jon Talton argues, "Amazon's second headquarters: Expect the unexpected," in the Seattle Times, by putting it in a Republican state that isn't totally mossback politically, WHILE KEEPING ITS WAGES DOWN. From the column:
Bezos and his lieutenants may be reacting to our extreme political, social and cultural polarization by seeking a second base in a red state such as Texas. This would potentially give Amazon more political protection from Republican lawmakers — remember, President Donald Trump has threatened antitrust action against Bezos. Or they might be assessing America’s reactionary turn on immigration, trade and world leadership, and all the risks involved. In this case, a Canadian second headquarters would make sense.

Where? If Bezos stays to form, he wants a city, not only because of his commitment to sustainability but also to attract top talent. A suburban area with good transit might also make the cut. I suspect traditional incentives will play less of a role. The company will certainly take them and play localities off against each other. But talent, education (especially with a strong research university), a cool vibe, good air-travel connections and transit will be the big factors for the finalists. This is not going to be like the 20th-century moves from downtowns to far-flung, car-dependent office “parks.”
Talton's analysis is interesting because it means that the company is making business and political calculations that are just as important as an incentive package.

General Electric as an analogue.  Relatedly, I found very interesting the process General Electric went through in deciding to return to the city from a now traditional suburban campus.  They ended up picking Boston. 

During the search process they did make clear to some states that they weren't interested, because of how political decisions made by their elected officials, such as opposition to the Export-Import Bank, had negative impact on their business ("GE rules out relocation to Dallas because of Texas politicians' views," Dallas Morning News).

If competition for employees is a priority.  I think this matters because while Amazon says wages will average $100,000 per employee, competition for highly trained employees would push wages up further, such as in Silicon Valley and Seattle, because of the competition between the big companies, and startups, for the best talent.

That means most big cities: Chicago; Denver (the New York Times suggests that Denver would be the optimal choice, "Dear Amazon, We Picked Your New Headquarters for you"); Greater Los Angeles; New York City; Washington, DC; among them, are out of consideration, as well as those existing digital economy clusters already experiencing a great competition for technically qualified workers (Austin, TX; Boston; San Francisco; Silicon Valley).

Not sure about Pittsburgh, it has Carnegie-Mellon, which has drawn an increasing number of digital commerce firms, but a major corporate headquarters for Amazon could push wage competition to undesirable levels.

Baltimore's probably too close to DC from a wage standpoint, and Johns Hopkins is more known for medical technology than computer engineering. Similarly, Philadelphia may be languishing in terms of attracting and keeping corporate headquarters, but it's embedded in the Mid-Atlantic economy and wages wouldn't be cheap.

Is red state--conservative Republican--presence a priority? But maybe wages aren't the biggest priority for Amazon, currying more favor with conservative politicians is, as Jon Talton suggests.

If you want to locate in a Republican state but without terrible politics that means North Carolina is out, despite the presence of the Research Triangle and even Greensboro. Probably Texas is out for politics--Governor Greg Abbott and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are hard right, and the large cities (Austin, Dallas, Houston) have too high a prevailing wage, while San Antonio has a limited presence in digital technology business and no rail transit system.

Wisconsin, nope, even though it has the University of Wisconsin Madison with strong engineering and business programs and proximity to Chicago--Wisconsin may have shot its bolt with Foxconn and the promise of up to $3 billion in incentives ("$3 billion incentive package," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Now that Sam Brownback is no longer governor, maybe Kansas has a chance. They definitely need an economic boost after the radical tax cut policies of the former Governor have wrecked the state's finances. Oklahoma City has strong leadership, great quality of life and is creating a streetcar system, but doesn't have premier technical engineering programs.

Maybe the Silicon Prairie initiative linking Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas makes that region, strongly Republican, attractive.

If this is a priority, then I think Indianapolis would be a consideration. It's reasonable politically, conservative, flipping between Democrats and Republicans, with the presence of Eli Lilly. Purdue University isn't that far, with its strong engineering programs and the university's desire to develop a major online presence ("Purdue-Kaplan online university is one step closer to becoming reality," Lafayette Journal & Courier). Purdue and Indiana University have a joint campus in the city. While there is no real transit system, the city is compact.

Canada?  Even though the RFP says "North America" and is not limited to the US, because not drawing attacks on the company from politicians is likely an important priority--separately company founder Jeff Bezos is frequently attacked by President Trump over his ownership of the Washington Post--I don't think it's very likely that Amazon would pick a city in Canada, like Toronto ("Allan Sloan: Trump might be driving Amazon HQ2 to Canada") for its second headquarters, as a way to send a signal that parts of Corporate America are unhappy with President Trump over immigration, foreign trade policy, and other matters even if they are happy to get tax cuts. 

As a retailer--although the company makes a great deal of money selling computer services to other firms--Amazon is far more focused on the domestic market than other digital commerce firms that sell software and platforms, although Amazon is plenty active in various international markets.

Where? Jon Talton suggests Dallas; Denver; and Toronto; as well as Austin, although it lacks an international airport, and Atlanta, but it lacks a walkable center. He also suggests Calgary; Cincinnati; Guadalajara; Minneapolis; Monterrey; and Pittsburgh. He suggests Phoenix would be a possibility except for the state's politics, but doesn't ding North Carolina's Research Triangle for the same reason, instead handicapping it because of sprawl.

I would consider Baltimore--Amazon could be the 21st century anchor the city needs to reposition ("Opinion: What Baltimore and D.C. can do to start working better together as a region (Baltimore Business Journal op-ed),"); Indianapolis; Minneapolis; Philadelphia--in the thick of things, but more in need of such a boost despite what the Green Party of Philadelphia says ("Green Party to Amazon: Stay Away from Philly," press release).

Pittsburgh; maybe Chicago but the state government is completely dysfunctional and its choice wouldn't curry favor with Republicans, but it is so centrally located, possibly Kansas City, especially given its bioscience and Smart City initiatives ("Kansas City To Become The Largest 'Smart City' In North America," KCUR/NPR) and how smart city initiatives could be a new area of growth for Amazon (Pittsburgh has the same potential).

It will be interesting to see what Amazon does.

Moody's Analytics top ten cities for new Amazon headquarters
Moody's Analytics ("Where Amazon's Next Headquarters Should Go: We offer a data driven approach to selecting the best metro area for HQ2") doesn't seem to believe that wages are the foremost consideration, and lists various places that offer intriguing possibilities.  Except for global warming, Miami would be a good choice, offering multilingual business opportunities and Florida is a Republican state.  Portland and Salt Lake too, except both are probably too close to Seattle to offer the kind of geographic diversity the firm wants.

If Moody's is right, and they have better insights into business decision-making than I do, it looks like a big city truly has a shot, although based on recent wins such as Mercedes Benz, maybe it's Atlanta and not traditional cities like Boston, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

-- "Regional Transit A Strike Against Atlanta To Get Amazon's 2nd Headquarters," WABE/NPR.  From the article:
It's no secret Atlanta doesn't have a regional transit system. But with the city pegged as one of the top contenders for Amazon's second headquarters, metro Atlanta's lack of transit might cost the city the deal.
"The ability to get workers to work is a major consideration,” said Robert Puentes, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C. “And in cities, states and metros across the country, the emergence and the reliability in public transit is a key consideration."
Despite the lack of transit, Moody's Analytics ranks Atlanta quite highly. Plus, the MARTA system seems on the verge of substantive expansion, although the current general manager credited for steadying the agency is leaving ("Keith Parker explains decision to leave MARTA," Atlanta Business Chronicle.

-- "Austin is top candidate for Amazon HQ2, Moody's Analytics says," Austin Business Journal

-- "Hogan plugs Baltimore as his preferred site for Amazon headquarters," Washington Post
-- "Opinion: Why Baltimore should be at the top of Amazon's list for HQ2," Baltimore Business Journal
-- "How Johns Hopkins is playing a role in bringing Amazon's HQ2 to Baltimore

Some of the commentary in the Boston Globe has been particularly interesting and will be discussed in the Part 2 piece.

-- "Boston's pros and cons surround the Amazon bid," Boston Globe
-- "Amazon Weighs Boston in Search for Second Headquarters," Bloomberg

-- "Brooklyn May Be NYC's Best Bet to Win New Amazon Headquarters," Bloomberg

Chula Vista (Greater San Diego)
-- "This city is offering Amazon a $400 million incentive package, chance to develop university (and ocean views)," Phoenix Business Journal

Columbus, Ohio
-- "Few experts see Columbus getting new Amazon headquarters," Columbus Dispatch

Actually, Columbus could be a good choice.  Ohio is a Republican state, and the city has a top notch university, is the state capital, and has a significant investment program refocusing development on downtown.  The core has the potential to be walkable.  They have a decent bus system, and good enough air connections.

New York City
-- "Hey Amazon: this report says NYC is a tech dynamo," Crain's New York Business
-- New York City Tech Ecosystem Study webpage, report, HR&A for the Association for a Better New York

Northern Virginia
-- "Tysons Corner bypassed as Northern Va. vies for Amazon," Richmond Times-Dispatch

In the 1990s, Virginia created the Center for Innovative Technology in Loudoun County, and it has become the centerpiece of the state's technology development and innovation agenda.

Providing transit connections to that anchor was one of the justifications for the creation of the Silver Line heavy rail line through Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Amazon there could also provide the energy to reposition Dulles International Airport. The State chose that district rather than Tysons, for its bid.

Interestingly, had the State implemented its many years plan to "extend" the Northeast Corridor Amtrak service to Richmond, maybe Richmond could have been a contender, although it's a small metro. Virginia Commonwealth University is an up and comer, and focuses on engineering, medical, and business studies.

-- "Pomona wants to be home to the new Amazon headquarters," Los Angeles Times

Prince George's County, Maryland
-- "Pr. George's Co. gives Amazon 3 reasons to build new HQ here," WTOP-radio

Just think what PG's chances would be if the Purple Line had already been constructed and was in operation and it had been used to already reposition the County ("Another lesson that Prince George's County has a three to five year window to reposition based on visionary transportation planning," "Part 4 | Making over New Carrollton as a transit-centric urban center and Prince George's County's "New Downtown"," and "PL #7: Using the Purple Line to rebrand Montgomery and Prince George's Counties as Design Forward") and College Park was truly a college town ("More Prince George's County: College Park's militant refusal to become a college town makes it impossible for the city(and maybe the County) to become a great place," 2015). It has University of Maryland, with a decent engineering school, has a Republican governor, sort of has transit, etc.

-- "Toronto’s tech talent being used to woo Amazon," Toronto Star

Washington, DC
-- "DC pitches 4 sites for Amazon headquarters," WTOP-radio

WRT DC's proposals, none of the area's suggested have enough build out potential to accommodate Amazon's plans, although NoMA and the Capitol Riverfront are nice places.  The suggestion of Shaw is odd as it has almost no build out capacity of significance.

A truly path-breaking proposal could have been offered.  On the other hand, it would have been very interesting for DC to offer an expanded "Capitol Hill East" site with the addition of the RFK Stadium site immediately north, and the former Pepco generating site north of RFK, all on the west bank of the Anacostia River but immediately accessible to the so called "East of the River" district of the city, which is the least economically well off section. 

It's near the H Street entertainment district, pretty close to Union Station, one of the busiest train stations in the US, is served by a Metrorail station, and could be the hub of expanded streetcar service, which is currently provided on the H Street side of the RFK site, and the undergrounding of the Orange Line between the Armory and Minnesota Avenue Stations, adding more development capacity to the RFK parking lots.

The site offers reasonably convenient access to National Airport and isn't too far from BWI Airport, south of Baltimore.

It would have provided the means for a major transformation of this part of the city ("Wanted: a comprehensive plan for the Anacostia River East corridor," 2012), and far more economically impactful than the current plans to attract the Washington Redskins ("Half billion-dollar plans for RFK Stadium site include sports center," Washington Post).

The transformation could extend environmentally, as the city could leverage Amazon's choice of the city as a way to accelerate plans to restore the Anacostia River and watershed. Although it would have set up an interesting dynamic with the National Park Service, because there is an easement limiting use of the RFK site for recreation. 

The city could start with the Reservation 13 site and grow out from their as they negotiate changes with the NPS and integrate Pepco into the project.  To assuage the NPS, the city could integrate some recreational uses into the sites as well as invest in improvements to other park spaces along the river which are currently controlled by the federal government.

It could have also leveraged a long since forgotten revitalization proposal for the Spingarn High School campus that dates to 2003 ("The City Of Learning‚: School Design and Planning as Urban Revitalization in New Jersey, Berkeley, and Washington, D.C.," Roy Strickland, University of Michigan), current desires to spiff up the Langston Golf Course (The Langston Initiative, Federal City Council), and proposals for the old Hechinger Mall ("H Street Group Pitches Major Hechinger Mall Development As Activity Moves Down the Corridor," Bisnow)--the Mall is owned by a major national developer and could be brought into the mix.

It could even be used to push forward the plans to develop over the Union Station railyard, the Burnham Place development, including an extension of the project beyond its current boundary of K Street.  Plus push extension of the streetcar both east and west--Amazon has invested in Seattle's streetcar ("Amazon to Buy 4th Streetcar, Fund 10-Minute Headways," Seattle Transit blog). And the undergrounding of the Orange Line across the RFK campus could also be used to build another station on Benning Road, serving the site's northern section.

But it would send the city's residential real estate market into overdrive and definitely people East of the River would fear displacement in the pace of significantly increased real estate demand.

And the city wasn't capable of pulling such a vision together in the first place.

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At 4:25 PM, Anonymous Charlie said...

In Shaw, they are talking about the

1. JBG properties behind Atlantic’s plumbing which Howard will ground lease.

2. Howard owned “Howard Town Center”

That is a huge chunk of parking lots.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I know, I ride up Sherman Avenue reasonably frequently and look at the space, remonstrating about the wasted opportunities.

But have you ever been to SoDo? 8 million s.f. at DC's density requires a lot of land area.

They'll want room to grow, already Shaw is constrained.

At 4:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well those places are coming. JBG is very interested in the ground lease sites.

Howard in the process of settling HTC lawsuit.

My reading of the DC proposal was they’d put the 8M SF in the 4 areas — not all in one.

FYI, I need to send you some of the stuff I’ve been reading on Catalonia — yes they are crazy, but their urban political parties are very much up you alley.char

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Yep, know you're familiar with Barca etc. Would be interested in the urban parties.

2. I agree that the DC proposal was the four areas as one. I just don't know if that's what Amazon wants, based on SoDo. (It's been a few years since I tooled around there though, but I am sure it's even more intense).

3. As far as Shaw goes, yes, it's coming and that's a good thing. I was taking photos of Hine the other day, thinking about how that development will help intensify and bring more amenities and benefits to Capitol Hill residents, and not just because of the Trader Joe's.

The same goes with development around lower U Street.

It's just so amazing to see these neighborhoods pop, compared to say 2002.

I did see that HTC article about the legal stuff. But I do think they are wrong to think they have a great opportunity for a food hall/public market type operation there.

The problem with that area is how to connect it _in people's minds_ as it is not that far, to U Street, rather than having it function as a block unto its own the way it functions now.

E.g., I was looking at the bookstore block yesterday, and as you say the parking across the street and the McDonald's and the sets of abandoned buildings along Georgia Ave. that HU controls, and lamenting.

B&N has repositioned many of its "college" bookstores to be more community connected (Williamsburg, VA and William and Mary is a leader, as the store is on the street mall for the Williamsburg "town", even CUA and U Baltimore). Imagine the B&N at HU like that, with a Busboys and Poets/black Politics & Prose vibe?

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The problem with that area is how to connect it _in people's minds_ as it is not that far, to U Street, rather than having it function as a block unto its own the way it functions now.

E.g., I was looking at the bookstore block yesterday, and as you say the parking across the street and the McDonald's and the sets of abandoned buildings along Georgia Ave. that HU controls, and lamenting."

Howard is trying to get a bond to redo one of those georgia ave buildings into a semi-residence hall and conference space. I think the hvac in the building "failed".

The problem with that area is how to connect it _in people's minds_ as it is not that far, to U Street, rather than having it function as a block unto its own the way it functions now."

Hmm, interesting. I was just driving my the wharf and it has the same problem.

The primary emphasis (coming from duke plan) has been to re-open W st, but actually as you say the interaction with U is more important.

Re: catalonia. Again I think those guys re very whack; long story but they have been breathing the fumes for too long in catlan owned and operated media.

But the "local" parties are interesting, and this is a good case in English:

what they are saying about cities makes sense; their views on catalonia don't (when you dream of ithaca get ready to dream for a long time) and their reading of the EU/international situation is 100% off.

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

What I don't understand well enough is the level of autonomy in Spain. Apparently the Basque is treated differently, but parts of that date to the late 1800s. To wit, they collect the tax revenue, keep much of it, and then remit whatever required percentage to Spain national government.

Why wouldn't an arrangement like that suffice?

haven't been to the wharf yet, but I mean to check it out in relationship to something I've been meaning to write about waterfronts.

But yes, I see your point. The outer buildings become a wall.

For whatever reason, and it's been a long time since I've been there, it doesn't feel quite the same with Battery Park Promenade, but you still have to wend your way through the blocks.

... I'm also thinking Hafen City. It has a lot of water, but also waterways leading up to it, so it's a bit more permeable.

Plus they have some historic buildings mixed in, not many, because there weren't many, it was port space. But still they have them.

And they have a good variety in use of materials, even though most of the buildings are otherwise modern.

Wow, DUKE Plan. It's been many years since I've read it. Went to one of the planning meetings in 2003 that was an education session, featuring best practice presentations from NYC, Philadelphia, KC, and Kathy Smith of CulturalTourismDC. It was great. People asked me what I thought of the meeting. I said "which one?, the presentations, or the public comments section where everyone complained about gentrification?"

Anyway, like my complaint about the Takoma plan and the NoMA plan (this one since I know a lot more about planning now), is that (1) these plans were done a long time ago and the conditions are different, and the city has more opportunities now, definitely they are different for Takoma, where the plan was based on conditions from the 1990s even though it came out in 2002/2003 too)

(2) most of the city's plans are weak on urban design and placemaking generally. Probably that's true of DUKE, or at least, it needs to be upgraded.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: Catalonia. Short answer, they tried in 2006, the constitution court threw it out because of "federalism".

DUKE plan: I don't think the Duke plan is that bad on placemaking. Execution is weak. But from the metro (13th) down to about 9th they have been following the plan and I'd say it mostly a success.

What the plan can't do is think about the Howard space -- that was going to be university -- and that needs to be brought back into the urban fold now.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

U-urban connection has been a town gown issue for a long time, across the board. DC too. Obviously, campuses were set up to be closed off from the outset. Now they need and the Us typically want to be more connected.

As I've mentioned, Lincoln Land Institute has a u urban land development initiative.

Of course, there are a few best practice examples, many Us working at building centers when they don't have them, etc.

I had forgotten about the Syracuse initiative (I mentioned it a decade ago in an entry) but came across it again when I was writing that Silver Spring series.

It may be the model for universities on fostering connections to the community.

Because I went to UM, where the main part of central campus is surrounded by the town so by default it's integrated (kind of, more than most universities in any case) I see this more. (It's sort of like that at the edge of GWU and 21st St./PA Ave., but only there.)

Interestingly, years ago I was talking with harriet tregoning about how HU was doing good dorm redevelopment (still dorms, privately owned and developed I think) on 4th Street and how they needed to change the street treatment, she countered making the point that the U was taking over that section of 4th. I thought it was so much better and a better integration of the city and the university.

If HU wasn't broke, they could redo the hospital along the lines of the St. Anthony Hospital Chicago proposal, and that would be a big change too.

.... also thinking about the earlier back and forth, in an odd way, while the Banneker Rec. Center is an amazing civic asset, the way it is situated kind of acts as a barrier too.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

While not perfect, the Monroe Street Market development at the Brookland Metro, on CUA land, is a kind of step forward.

Sadly, I can't see HU pulling off an equally quality development, unless companies like Abdo, Bozzuto, JBG, etc. get the bid, instead figure Jarvis, Jair Lynch, others. Jair Lynch hasn't demonstrated to me that they can do nuanced projects like Monroe Street Market or the Fitzgerald. (Bozzuto is like Kroger, capable of doing great work, but not so great at building best practice into their SOP and approach to development going forward. Another Bozzuto project is the Fitzgerald apartments abutting U Baltimore and the LR, with the college bookstore on the ground floor + a restaurant or coffee shop I think.)

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Paul Meissner said...

With Amazon, Lord only knows what their true criteria are, but RFK would require NPS and Congress approval. Even if that weren't the case, DC's attempt to pin Amazon in the District is not likely to succeed.

As for Virginia and Maryland, if (and that's a big "if"), Amazon wants to be in our region, I think the Tysons-Reston corridor would win hands down. A good second option would be waterfront location in Baltimore.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

From what I've heard JBG has the lockdown on the ground lease sections.

I'm sure they want the "HTC" properties as well.

JBG is "quality" but that is based on one or two person who insisted on urban integration with the Shay and the Louis. Not sure that will be the case with the Howard Ground Leases.

The renovation of the bookstore building is terrible.

Yes the rec center, HS, Meyer and Cardozo+Garfield terrace are all huge barriers. I don't know the size -- that is maybe 10 acres.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Paul -- fwiw, I don't think Tysons/Reston corridor would win hands down, although Reston is pretty good at the core for a suburb, as they are still very suburban.

I do think Baltimore would be a great choice, if Amazon cared about being a revitalization anchor, but I doubt they care that much about that.

I just don't see them picking the DC area, given the political situation, and that Virginia is led by a Democratic Party governor, it might not get them enough cred, if Jon Talton's thinking is right, but recognize Talton has spent a lot of time and energy figuring Amazon out.

But yes, DC specifically has no chance.

Yes, the NPS/Congress thing is a barrier, but the Amazon RFP calls for a build out-scaling up over time.

But from a transformational thinking standpoint, DC could start with Reservation 13 and Pepco and go forward, and work out the RFK stuff over time.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I think JBG has a lot of examples of decent urbanism and they are building it into their SOP/approach in a way that eludes Bozzuto. It's more than the Shay... and obviously, they have the financing to do a project, something which other developers have lacked in the past.

Plus JBG is already embedded-invested in the neighborhood, making them more motivated, etc.

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Mari Inshaw said...

Yes, the District of Columbia has no chance. Even though Bezos has a house here. He already has one asset here.

Maybe some in DC gov know this, because I cannot make any serious sense of why the heck Shaw was mentioned. In my last blog post, I guessed the Mayor's office was sucking up to someone or a group. Howard is too broke to be useful, there is no real space to accommodate part of an Amazon HQ and traffic around the neighborhood is already bad.

Maybe not having your assets too close together would take Baltimore out of the running as well. Baltimore would be great if it were chosen, but it would be a great miracle.

My money is on Austin, TX if not some Canadian city.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I guess it's kind of how in the economic development "plan" produced for Mayor Gray (the musings of some business school deans more or less) they said 3 medical office buildings at McMillan could make DC a world class medical center.about the Georgia Avenue corridor

... but there is my past piece occurring-innovation.html

and my unpublished proposal to make Walter Reed a biomedical education and technology center (long story, we were way too late in the game, and the lead was pretty wacked and it destroyed our credibility. I'm pretty proud of the work though, and it's another example of how DC has so little vision, settling for some housing and retail more or less, when other communities create big tech and/or medical and educational centers on equivalent ex-bases).

But in that proposal I called for branding Georgia Avenue the bio/technology corridor.

Relatedly, it would have been a stretch but the "research park" that CUA wanted to develop on the AFRH land they got that has been a dream for awhile should have been offered, with a commitment to up the quality of the CUA engineering school, pull in Howard, etc.

I just can't see Amazon choosing a Canadian location. It would be another example of tech companies abandoning the US, using tax codes to their advantage, etc. like all the discussions in Europe (e.g., haven't written that Uber in London has the booking through Denmark or something so they don't have to pay local tax) and I don't think Bezos wants that kind of political headache.

WRT Austin, while I discussed "competition for employees" I didn't adequately discuss "competition for housing."

That's the primary reason I don't think that they would pick a city like Austin. It will overheat the already strong real estate market.

One of the issues in Seattle is even people making a lot of money are being priced out of the housing market. Housing there is more expensive on average than in DC.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Baltimore would make sense in the Kevin Plank development in Westport.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

maybe they could commit to upgrading the light rail vehicles to something modern and spiffy...

At 11:52 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

OK, I should have done my research better:

"The first phase would be 586K SF on the Howard Town Center site at 2416 Georgia Ave. NW, followed by another 1.3M SF on two adjacent parcels. The third phase would then include 822K SF on two noncontiguous, D.C.-owned parcels: the D.C. Housing Finance Agency site at 815 Florida Ave. NW and the Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs at the corner of 14th and U streets NW. The final phase would be 3.3M SF across Georgia Avenue from the first phase on the Howard University Hospital site.

Read more at:

So, I thought the DCHFA was supposed to be reserved for affordable housing, and they are also proposing to get rid of the Howard Hospital.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

(me too.)

I think the other thing they'd have to do is rename the area "Amazonia."

The other thing is as you know, you could theoretically accommodate the business side that way.

Not the increase in residential population, the need to improve transit services, etc.

The old GM building in the New Center district of Detroit is 1.4 million s.f., multiply that by 5.6.

I don't think it would really work and would draw all the same criticisms in SoDo about Amholes, etc.

The Res. 13 + RFK + Pepco + Hechinger Mall concept would work a lot better.

But it is still pretty much a self-contained campus.

SoDo is dominated by Amazon, but there are significant other uses present there too, such as biotech.

HUH, another issue. They'd like a new one, all the discussion about linking up with UMC in the past etc.

HFA. If it resulted in a 100% affordable project somewhere else, not a big deal.

But as you know, most of these parcels, when the height limit is imposed, aren't all that substantive.


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