Envisioning Amazon in Massachusetts: An Overview of Sites Under Consideration Update



A conceptual plan for an Amazon headquarters at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. (Source: Boston Bid)

Perhaps the most anticipated real estate related topic at the moment is Amazon’s location decision for their second headquarters (HQ2). With an estimated $5 billion in construction, 8 million total square feet and an eventual 50,000 high paying jobs, this decision will be significant for whichever metropolitan area Amazon chooses for HQ2. Per Amazon’s HQ2 Request for Proposals (RFP), the company desires a second command center for work on global management and product development, similar to its’ Seattle headquarters which includes 33 buildings totaling 8.1 million square feet and 40,000 employees. Since last Friday’s submission deadline, Amazon has received 238 bids from 54 different states, provinces and districts across North America, including Massachusetts and Boston.

Amazon is only considering metropolitan areas with a population of over 1 million, reducing eligibility to just over 50 North American metropolitan areas. The RFP cites Amazon’s desire for a “highly educated labor pool” and “technical talent” in HQ2’s eventual city, which would require strong educational institutions and other tech related companies, as well as a high quality of life and strong cultural presence. This implies a urban setting with a variety of lifestyle, entertainment, housing and transportation options, similar to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.

The Boston metro area holds many advantages, in particular our 35 universities, colleges, and community colleges including top schools such as Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, and BU. The Boston area also has over 220,000 tech jobs, with an increasing number of students entering STEM fields. Boston is also the largest, growing global cluster of robotics research and development. Boston was even named the best startup community by the US Chamber of Commerce in 2017 for the second year in a row!

Bloomberg has reported that many senior executives at Amazon are advocating for Boston as the company’s second headquarters. In Boston’s HQ2 bid, the 161-acre Suffolk Downs site in East Boston is the focal point for development. The proposal describes the former horse-racing site, which is also partly located in Revere, as a “blank canvas” that is “shovel ready” for Amazon buildings. The proposal states that 500,000 square feet of development could be complete by 2019, as desired in Amazon’s RFP, and the total 8 million square feet could be complete by 2027. Suffolk Downs is owned by The HYM Investment Group, whose initial development plans call for about 10,000 housing units, 550,000 square feet of restaurants and retail, 1,500 hotel rooms and 40 acres of public space. This would already provide nearby housing for 20% of Amazon’s estimated 50,000 employees.

An aerial view of the existing Suffolk Downs property. (Source: Boston HQ2 Bid)

Other sites in Boston noted in the State’s HQ2 bid include the Harrison Albany Corridor in the South End, the South Boston Waterfront and the Allston/Brighton to South Station Corridor clustered about the Massachusetts Turnpike. Another possible Greater Boston Area location for Amazon noted in the State’s HQ2 bid is the 1,500-acre Union Point in Weymouth, which is shovel-ready and already zoned for over 10 million square feet of commercial development and 4,000 residences and is located just 12 miles south of Boston. Master developer LStar Communities has offered Amazon 101.4 acres of land for free at Union Point. The caveat is that Amazon must then donate $200 million to South Shore charities.

Union Point aerial rendering

Rendering of the proposed 1.6-million-square-foot Exchange South End commercial development, part of the Harrison Albany Corridor in the South End.

Though Boston is a worthy option for Amazon, it’s important to remember that many other formidable states and cities have put out bids for the HQ2. In Massachusetts alone, there were 26 sites, many located outside the City of Boston, that the State included in its bid. Some of these include Patriot Place in Foxborough, Osgood Landing in North Andover, the Lynn waterfront and the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. Below is a map of all proposed sites in Massachusetts:

Outside of Massachusetts, cities such as New York and San Francisco are large urban areas that hold many of the requirements Amazon desires. Cities such as Austin, which has a vibrant, growing technology sector, and Atlanta, a city that houses many technical workers graduating from Georgia Tech, are also possible locations. Corporate relocation has increasingly been a competition for cities and states across the US, as evidenced by General Electric’s recent choice of Boston for its’ corporate headquarters. Given the size of Amazon’s HQ2, this particular corporate relocation is historically relevant for the city Amazon chooses, the state that city lies within and the nation's shifting geographic economy. Amazon will decide in which city to construct HQ2 in 2018.

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