Emanuel invites Chicago ‘nominations’ for site of Amazon’s HQ2

on Sep20

20 September 2017 | 2:31 pm

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday invited “nominations” for Chicago sites suitable to become home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters — even as the behind-the-scenes competition is already focusing on a handful of options in the downtown area.

“We’re looking for partners to put their best foot forward and help us determine which sites have the best potential to drive growth for Amazon and Chicago,” the mayor was quoted as saying in a press release.

“While we have many sites that meet Amazon’s requirements, there is only one city that offers unmatched potential for future success – Chicago.”

The deadline for the city’s “request-for-nominations” is Sept. 27 and must be submitted only by the “property owner or an entity with site control.”

Respondents were encouraged to forge partnerships with “other nominating entities.” But they must also have “demonstrated experience and wherewithal to perform and deliver a project” that meets the demands laid out in Amazon’s RFP, the city said.

They include: 500,000 square feet of “initial space” that can be expanded to up to eight million square feet over the next decade. That’s enough space to house as many as 50,000 employees.

Nominated sites must also provide “direct access” to mass transit, be located within 30 miles of a “population center” and 45 minutes of O’Hare Airport.

“Amazon HQ2 has the potential to create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment in Chicago,” Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman was quoted as saying.

“The process will help ensure that everyone who has one or more sites that meet the high standards of the Amazon RFP will be considered for the city’s formal response.”

Last week, Emanuel made a spirited case for Chicago to win the heated competition for “HQ2″ and said he plans to join forces with the county and state in an “all hands-on-deck, all-resources-to-bear” bid.

Earlier this week, a team of city and state officials flew to Seattle to get a first-hand look at Amazon’s 8.1 million square-foot, 33 building campus, which houses 40,000 employees.

The sheer size of the HQ2 project and the must-haves in Amazon’s RFP limit the choices to only a handful of Chicago sites.

The Chicago Sun-Times has zeroed in on six possibilities: the old main Post Office straddling Congress Parkway, perhaps in conjunction with the adjacent Union Station project; two in the North Branch Industrial Corridor; the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 62-acre site in the South Loop once owned by convicted felon Tony Rezko; and a site at Roosevelt and Ogden avenues that is in the Illinois Medical Center District, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stroger Hospital, the V.A. Hospital and Rush University Medical Center.

Last week, Emanuel was not yet willing to talk about any of those sites or a handful of others that would satisfy Amazon’s demands.

“I don’t want to pick favorites about sites. That’s for them to pick. … My priority is the site of Chicago,” the mayor said.

“The good news for us is, you actually identified a number of sites. If you’re very interested in a vertical area, that’s possible. If you’re interested in more of a horizontal, that’s possible all within the limits or boundaries…of a Central Business District … We’re not like any other city limited to maybe only one choice…We have a multitude of sites based on the perspective of what they want when they say `Amazon in 2030.’ “

The most difficult demand to satisfy is likely to be Amazon’s demand for a “stable and business-friendly environment,” particularly after the marathon state budget stalemate that strained Emanuel’s longtime friendship with Gov. Bruce Rauner to the breaking point.

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