Amazon has triggered a US$5 billion bidding war — here are some of the craziest proposals for its new headquarters
The 238 bids include billions in tax incentives and even offers to rename towns after the e-commerce giant
By Leanna Garfield
After Amazon announced in September that it plans to build a second headquarters in an undetermined location, it received 238 bids from cities, states, and regions across North America. Each proposal detailed why that place should be chosen for Amazon’s new second home.
The company says its new campus, called HQ2, will bring 50,000 new jobs to the city where it winds up being built. The e-commerce giant will invest US$5 billion in the construction, making the offer one of the largest corporate-civic opportunities in recent American history.
The shortlist is expected to be revealed some time in early 2018, and many cities have disclosed their plans to woo Amazon. Some are more extreme than others.
Here are a few of the most out-there bids.
Columbia, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri — a proposal to build a Hyperloop between the state’s three largest cities
Missouri submitted a state-wide bid that offers Amazon a choice of three locations for HQ2: Colombia, St. Louis, or Kansas City. If Amazon comes to the state, Missouri Economic Development officials told local outlet KMOV that it would build Hyperloop stations in each of the three cities.
In the state’s bid, Missouri touts a proposed “innovation corridor” that would connect St. Louis and Kansas City in approximately 25 minutes, with a stop in Colombia in between. Normally, it takes nearly four hours to drive from St. Louis to Kansas City. A flight takes about an hour.
A feasibility study for Missouri’s Hyperloop project is already underway — at an estimated cost of US$1.5 million. The state may build the Hyperloop regardless of Amazon’s decision.
Dallas, Texas — a development that would surround a proposed station for a US$15 billion bullet train
Developers from the firms Matthews Southwest and Texas Central Partners are pitching a transit-oriented development for Amazon’s HQ2 campus, according to the Dallas Business Journal. The headquarters would include a proposed station for a bullet train, which Dallas magazine reports is expected to cost US$15 billion. If fully approved by the city, the 240-mile line would transport passengers from Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has formally expressed support for the train plan, which is likely to happen with or without Amazon. Developers hope to start construction on the development by late 2018.
Dallas, Texas — the site of a former (nearly dead) shopping mall
Another Dallas proposal comes from three developers who want Amazon — the e-commerce giant that pioneered the growth of online shopping — to move into the old site of the Valley View Mall.
Dallas News reports that the proposal calls for the construction of a 500,000-square-foot office building, which would be a part of a larger 430-acre district.
The building’s parking garage was demolished this summer. Now only a theatre, a few art galleries, some pizza joints, and a smoothie shop remain.
Phoenix, Arizona — a proposal to move into a renovated version of the city’s first shopping mall
There seems to be a trend of cities proposing former shopping malls as the site for HQ2. Phoenix officials likely pitched Park Central Mall to Amazon, according to multiple sources who spoke with the Phoenix Business Journal.
Park Central was the city’s first mall when it opened in the 1950s. The mall’s clothing stores shut down several years ago, and today there is just a Starbucks, a few restaurants, offices, and a data centre.
Newark, New Jersey — US$7 billion in tax incentives
In early October, Gov. Chris Christie and legislative leaders said they would offer Amazon tax breaks worth US$7 billion over the next decade if the company decides to build there, according to Bloomberg.
The plan would expand a subsidy programme, Grow NJ, and provide economic incentives for companies (like Amazon) that launch “transformative projects” (like HQ2).
The proposed bill would raise the cap on subsidies from US$5,000 to US$10,000 for every job Amazon creates. Christie said he expected the bill to be signed into law by mid-January.
Memphis, Tennessee — US$60 million in tax incentives
Memphis will offer US$60 million in economic incentives to Amazon, according to The Commercial Appeal.
The Memphis City Council voted on October 3 to offer the tax breaks for the company’s headquarters. Additional incentives could come from the development agency Economic Development Growth Engine, Shelby County, and the state.
Frisco, Texas — an offer to build the rest of its city around Amazon
Frisco, Texas, is proposing turning its small city — which has a population of about 160,000 spread over 62 square miles — into a company town dominated by Amazon.
“Our city’s only about 60 per cent built out, so we’ve got a lot of available land where we can build to suit,” Mayor Jeff Cheney told The New York Times. “We play to win. We’re innovators. We’re forward thinkers, and we’re serious.”
Stonecrest, Georgia — a proposal to rename itself after Amazon
Stonecrest is pledging to change the name of part of the town to the city of Amazon if the company chooses it for HQ2, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In early October, Stonecrest’s City Council voted 4-2 in favour of the name change. The town would also devote 345 acres to the campus.
“There are several major US cities that want Amazon, but none has the branding opportunity we are now offering this visionary company,” Mayor Jason Lary told the Journal-Constitution.
Calgary, Alberta — an offer to combine the city’s name with Amazon’s name
Part of the city of Calgary’s proposal is to combine the city’s name with Amazon’s name. It offered the suggestions “Calmazon” and “Amagary.”
To bring attention to its offer, Calgary rolled out an advertising campaign that involved spray-painting notes to Amazon on its sidewalks. The city also plastered a banner over a building in its South Lake Union neighbourhood with this message: “Hey Amazon. Not saying we’d fight a bear for you ... but we totally would.”
Philadelphia — three sites that would span a total of 28 million square feet
Amazon said it was looking for existing buildings of at least 500,000 square feet and total site space of up to 8 million square feet.
Philadelphia would have that covered. Its officials are proposing three sites to Amazon that would collectively span an estimated 28 million square feet in the city, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The unfinished developments — Schuylkill Yards, uCity Square, and Navy Yard — already include millions of square feet of offices, retail, transit lines, and residential spaces.