City Centre & Amazon: A perfect fit?
It was made to fit like a glove.
The city never intended for City Centre to meet the requirements Amazon listed in its search for a second world headquarters, but when the planning department reviewed Amazon’s request for proposals, everything was there.
Warwick’s proposal to woo the corporate giant was included in the package submitted by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to Amazon last month. The state proposal is among scores made by states and municipalities.
Commerce chose to keep state proposals under wraps, with the exception of some renderings advanced by Providence and Pawtucket. Proposals by East Providence, Woonsocket and North Kingstown were also included with the state’s submission.
Matthew Sheaff, spokesman for Commerce, said Wednesday the state’s submission met its aim to offer a “multiplicity” of options within the state. He could offer no developments since the state’s submission other than to say, “We are in communication with them [Amazon].”
In response to an email, Adam Sedo of corporate communications for Amazon said the company received 238 proposals from cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, districts and territories across North America.
“We will make a final decision in 2018. We are not commenting any further at this point,” he said.
While not identifying the Warwick location, the Commerce website features a rendering of a possible development across from the Interlink suggested by Warwick developer Michael Integlia. The Warwick plan appears to satisfy virtually all of the requirements Amazon spelled out.
“It’s a play,” says City Planner William DePasquale. “It’s something we’re proud of and it’s not just a response to Amazon.”
In its list of requirements, Amazon wants an initial 500,000 square feet that could be built out to 8 million square feet of space (that’s eight times the size of Warwick Mall) going out to the year 2027 and beyond. With approvals going back several years, the D’Ambra site on Jefferson Boulevard that is contiguous to the Interlink, and where a Hyatt Hotel is under construction, has been permitted for 540,000 square feet. In essence, Amazon could start tomorrow.
As for expansion, there are several other sites within City Centre that could be readily developed, including the Integlia property across from D’Ambra that was the former site of the Elizabeth Mill and the six acres, formerly LAZ Parking, which the Rhode Island Airport Corporation is marketing. In addition with the MBTA commuter rail connection to Providence, the city notes there is the opportunity for an extended “campus” to Providence.
There’s much more than a rail connection. City Centre fits to a “T” Amazon requirements that its future headquarters be centrally located with major highway connections and access to an international airport. Additionally, Amazon is looking for a locale served by a diversity of educational institutions and with access to a strong workforce.
In marketing City Centre, the city observes that, within a 10-mile radius, there are more than 300,000 residents and that two-thirds of New England’s population of 8.7 million is within a 75-mile radius of Warwick.
Many of these same points were made in marketing City Centre as the location for the Citizens Bank campus that is now under construction in Johnston.
DePasquale said City Centre, with Green Airport less than 1,000 feet away and connecting rail service, could be a player should Amazon pick Boston for its headquarters. He said that City Centre “happens to meet all the criteria” listed by Amazon. He added that the city wouldn’t have been doing its job if it didn’t try to market City Centre to Amazon.
Key to the Warwick presentation is the quality of life offered by the city and the state. DePasquale points to the proximity to Narragansett Bay, recreational amenities, shopping, dining and diversity of housing from $300,000 to million-dollar homes.
According to the bid specifications, Amazon’s headquarters would hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees with an average total compensation exceeding $100,000 over the next 10 to 15 years. The project is expected to have more than $5 billion in capital expenditures. The suggested site is 100 acres.
Among key preferences and decision drivers identified in the bid specifications are:
l A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure.
l Incentives offered by the state and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs.
l The project must be sufficiently close to a significant population center, such that it can fill the 50,000 estimated jobs.
l A highly educated labor pool and a strong university system is required.
l Highway corridors that provide direct access to significant population centers with eligible employment pools.
l Travel time to an international airport with daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area and Washington, D.C.
l A compatible cultural and community environment that includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes.
l A stable and consistent business climate.