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City officials consider Amazon HQ2

Boston makes shortlist of top 20 cities

Karen Morales
City officials consider Amazon HQ2
Photo credit: “Smile! You’ve got a Package form Amazon!” by Silus Grok

When news broke out that Boston is one of 20 cities considered for the location of online retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters, city leaders reacted with both excitement and concern over the impact a large corporation could have on a city laden with housing and transportation shortfalls.

at a glance

The 20 cities selected as finalists

for Amazon’s second headquarters:

  • Atlanta
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville
  • Newark,
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Northern
  • Virginia
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh
  • North Carolina
  • Toronto
  • Washington D.C.

Amazon released their shortlist of 20 cities last Thursday, in which nearly every major city in the northeast made the cut, as well as Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta. The new facility could bring 50,000 jobs.

Shortly after the announcement, Mayor Martin Walsh released a statement saying, “I am proud that Boston is on Amazon’s shortlist for its second North American headquarters. 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.”

In the city’s bid document, Suffolk Downs in East Boston was the main recommendation for the headquarters location, with its proximity to public transportation and the airport and its shovel-ready 161-acre space. Locations in Seaport, Widett Circle and Somerville also were proposed.

At a press event for an after-school STEM education program in East Boston at the Mario Umana Academy last Thursday, Walsh said Chief of Economic Development John Barros is looking into whether Suffolk Downs is the location in which Amazon is interested.

“They weren’t specific,” Walsh said. “We haven’t had a contact with Amazon yet.”

Critics of Boston’s Amazon bid have said the possibility of thousands of new employees moving into Boston could increase the pressure on the city’s housing supply, as well as public transportation capacity. Another concern is that a large tax break would siphon funds away from public resources and programs.

The mayor last Thursday would not answer questions about incentives.

“I don’t know what the incentives will be,” he said. “We’re going to work through all this stuff as we move forward.”

Boston city councilors said that if Amazon approached a deal with Boston, addressing the need for stronger transportation infrastructure, affordable housing and equitable employment opportunities would be necessary.

At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley spoke to the Banner by phone on Monday.

“Before I pledge any support to this bid, I want to ensure that the assumed economic boom and benefit of 50,000 jobs … that the prosperity and opportunity will be equitable,” she said. “These are issues we are grappling with and have to address, not contingent to Amazon. These issues will only be exacerbated with the influx of that many more workers.”

However, Pressley said, “These are all things that give me pause, but I’m not surprised that we would be attractive or competitive, and the potential is exciting on many levels.”

To examine further the possibility of Amazon, Pressley said that as a member of Local Progress, a national network of progressive municipal leaders, she is in the process of coordinating a conversation with her colleagues in government from other cities, such as Seattle, who have experience hosting Amazon.

“It will be a conference call with my colleagues in government from cities like Seattle who will then share the impact Amazon has had on their cities, things to look out for, and best practices with my colleagues in government here [in Boston and Somerville],” she said.

District 1 City Councilor Lydia Edwards provided a statement to the Banner about the possibility of Amazon moving into Suffolk Downs, which lies largely in Edwards’ East Boston district.

“This is our city’s moment to steer the ship in defining its identity over the next generation. Difficult, contentious conversations will happen but I’m confident in East Boston’s ability to advocate on behalf of our best interest,” said Edwards.

“It’s essential for community leaders to work with civic associations to plan and set standards for development in East Boston, especially for the Amazon bid,” she said. “I’m excited at the opportunity to help guide those conversations.”

At-large City Councilor Michelle Wu also weighed in on Amazon in Boston.

“We would need to have a serious conversation and be upfront about equity and ask how [Amazon’s] plans would fit into our challenges,” she said.

But, she added, “We need to evaluate every opportunity to bring jobs and look seriously at any business to connect residents with good wages.”

Proponents of the bid say that having a profitable and innovative company like Amazon could create a direct pipeline for Boston’s students towards competitive jobs.

Referring to students at the Umana School last week, Walsh said, “The young people who are here today, if Amazon were coming here or anywhere, they’re going to be working at Amazon. We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve to educate the workforce of the future. Boston has the capacity to do that, not only in our public school system, but also in our charter schools and private schools.”

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