Boston Makes Amazon’s Headquarters Shortlist

By John Lynds

As HYM Investment Group, LLC and the City of Boston scurry to permit a chunk of Suffolk Downs’ 161-acre parcel in order to make it ‘Amazon ready’ the Seattle-based company released its list of 20 metropolitan areas that have made the shortlist for Amazon’s second North American Headquarters (H2Q).

Boston and nineteen other cities in the U.S. and Canada made the list. According to Amazon the company reviewed 238 proposals from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to host HQ2. Aside from Boston cities like Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Columbus, OH, Dallas, TX, Denver, CO, Indianapolis, IN, Los Angeles, CA, Miami, FL, Montgomery County, MD, Nashville, TN, Newark, NJ, New York City, NY, Northern Virginia, VA, Philadelphia, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, Raleigh, NC, Toronto, ON and Washington D.C. all made the list.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said head of Amazon Public Policy Holly Sullivan.  “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Sullivan said Amazon evaluated each of the proposals based on the criteria outlined in the Request for Proposals (RFP) to create the list of 20 HQ2 candidates that will continue in the selection process. In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community.

Amazon expects to make a decision in 2018.

“I am proud that Boston is on Amazon’s shortlist for its second North American headquarters,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “As a thriving city with a talented and diverse workforce, culture of innovation and opportunity for all, I see no better city than Boston for Amazon to call their second home.”

HYM and the city have been working to make a small portion in the southeast corner of the 161-acre site known as Phase I “Amazon ready” if the Seattle-based internet company decides to pick Boston and move its H2Q here.

In order to do so HYM and Boston needs to be able to deliver 500,000 sq. ft. of office space to the tech giant by the end of 2019.

Under Phase I of the plan, HYM is proposing 520,000 sq. ft. of office space, in two 260,000 sq. ft. buildings, with supporting corporate space on the ground floor. Both proposed buildings will be approximately 120 feet tall, and will include terraced outdoor spaces with a landscaped, open-air walkway between the two buildings. The two buildings will share approximately 520 parking spaces. Approximately 12 acres of existing open space will remain as-is, and approximately 1.2 acres of new open space will be developed, including pedestrian access to the adjacent Suffolk Downs MBTA Blue Line station.

The Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency recently green lighted a change to Article 53 of the Boston zoning code that created the East Boston Neighborhood District to allow HYM to build higher than the 45 ft. restriction currently in place under zoning codes.

“We’ve been busy for months preparing Suffolk Downs as the next site for Amazon’s HQ2 and we’ve made great progress,” said HYM’s Managing Partner Tom O’Brien. “We’ll be ready to deliver exactly what they need when they need it. So, while we’re excited to have made Amazon’s shortlist, our goal is to be the home for HQ2.”

In a joint statement by Sen. Joseph Boncore and Rep. Adrian Madaro the two Eastie elected officials said Eastie and Revere are diverse, blue-collar immigrant communities that are currently facing many challenges.

“Examples of these issues include scarce affordable housing, displacement of families, dislocation of small businesses, severe traffic congestion, a lack of both before-and after-school programming for youth, and the ever increasing threat of sea level rise and severe weather events due to climate change.” they said. “We are hopeful that the development of Suffolk Downs will help address existing needs without creating new problems for the area.”

As this area continues to develop and grow, transportation pressures are noticeably increasing. Boncore and Madaro said residents face challenges with public transit infrastructure, traffic congestion, and connectivity to the rest of Greater Boston. Connectivity is necessary to ensure the continued economic development of these communities and access to greater opportunity in the region.

“Presently, transportation options are stymied by the lack of service between the Blue and Red Line trains. A financial commitment supporting the funding of this project would not only increase access to the development, but also provide members of the community with a much needed service,” said Boncore and Madaro in the statement. “The present limits to transportation infrastructure have resulted in high levels of congestion along densely populated Route 1A, making investments in improving the corridor a necessity.”

In addition, Boncore and Madaro would like to see an increase in capacity to present transportation structures and alternative approaches, such as a water transportation system on Chelsea Creek, would assist in reducing local congestion.

“The redevelopment of Suffolk Downs presents a unique economic opportunity for these communities, whether it is the addition of a flagship business such as Amazon or other commercial developments.” they said. “Still, it is important that the project remains focused on the economic needs of the host communities. In that vein, we ask that the project make significant hiring efforts from East Boston and Revere both during and after the construction process. In addition, a firm commitment to work with local labor organizations, worker centers and other advocates would ensure that workers are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Further, the development should include significant space and opportunities for local small businesses and artists.”

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