It's official: Boston submitted a 218 page bid to be considered for Amazon's second headquarters. I'll confess to having mixed feelings from the start. On one hand, an Amazon headquarters with 50K new jobs would be transformative for the city. On the other hand, I'm not sure we're ready support the housing, transportation and service needs of 50K new people in the Greater Boston Area. And let's be honest: unlike cities such as New York, we don't exactly have a track record of success with big public works projects.
But my bigger issue is with the bid itself: Revere? I get the convenience of Revere / East Boston. I also get the value of investing in Revere and making use of the dormant Suffolk Down site. But if the bid team spent any time at Amazon's HQ in Seattle, they would quickly learn that Amazon is a downtown company.
Before Seattle was the home of Amazon, it was known for its other tech giant: Microsoft. But Microsoft wasn't located in Seattle, instead putting its campus 15 miles east of the city in the sleepy suburb of Redmond. If you've never been to Redmond, think of it as Waltham meeting Wellesley - i.e. houses, restaurants, office parks, strip malls, more houses. It would have been much easier and cheaper for Amazon to follow Microsoft's lead across Lake Washington. But instead they decided to be an urban company, and invested heavily over the last several years in land and offices in downtown Seattle. You see this investment whenever you do business with Amazon, as many of the employees live downtown and walk or bike to their offices. I've even had dinner on multiple occasions with Amazon executives that all walked home at the end of the night. Amazon is hard-wired to downtown Seattle, and Redmond or Bellevue just were never an option for them.
I'm glad we made the bid. And we may even win this bid in spite of our chosen location. But let's not forget that we live in a world class city, whose ethos and downtown have almost eerie similarities to Seattle. I just wish we bid on what Boston is today, instead of a vision of what East Boston could be tomorrow.