For better or worse, it didn’t pan out in the end, but Atlanta’s courting of Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2 proposal wasn’t lacking imagination—and considerable carrots of cash.
Pitches compiled for the e-commerce giant, which are now public, present metro Atlanta as a business-friendly, diverse, globally connected “tech mecca” with culture that would appeal to HQ2’s 50,000 employees.
And the documents are rich in revelations.
For example: two green-space ideas were floated for capping sections of the Connector in Midtown alone; the Quarry Yards project in Grove Park received top billing alongside Midtown, downtown, and Old Fourth Ward; the “Stitch” concept was a contender after all; and non-intown sites such as Lockheed/Dobbins in Cobb County, Duluth’s Infinite Energy Center, and what was described as the “Georgia Aerotropolis Corridor” were bandied for Amazon bigwigs.
Total incentives for Amazon would have reached almost $2 billion eventually and included ideas such as renamed streets (hello, Kindle Road), an “Airport Experience Center” for employees, a $161 million “Amazon Academy of Georgia,” and possibly a MARTA car dedicated to moving Amazon’s goods around Atlanta traffic, as the Atlanta Business Chronicle relays.
What’s more, the HQ2-exacerbated changes to Atlanta’s built environment could have been pronounced in places across the city, as the following roundup illustrates.
Arts Center/Atlantic Station district
This district, as the pitch outlined, offered 12 development opportunities totaling more than 16 million square feet between three developers, most sites with top visibility from Interstate 75 and 85:
Part of MetLife’s HQ2 proposal:
Developer Hines’s vision for filling remaining holes in Atlantic Station’s fabric with HQ2 high-rises:
Described as the “Varsity Redevelopment,” this idea would have wiped out an Atlanta icon (possibly reintroducing it at the base of a high-rise) but added a 10-acre green space over 16 lanes of highway, connecting Georgia Tech’s campus with Midtown and HQ2, which would be “the catalyst and gateway” for making that a reality.
“Imagine a park, twice the size of Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park, and envision it as Amazon HQ2’s front yard,” went the pitch.
Perhaps this was related to Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s conversations a few weeks ago about topping the highway with a park near North Avenue? Perhaps the park component could still have legs?
Here’s a multi-tower proposal (sans highway-capping park) for Midtown’s Ponce & 3rd site that would have had a commanding Connector presence:
Here’s a gallery with energetic, HQ2-influenced Choose ATL renderings from around Midtown, all included in Georgia’s pitch. Descriptions accompany the images:
Quarry Yards district
The already-ambitious, MARTA-connected, 70-acre Quarry Yards project west of Midtown upped its rendering game in hopes of wooing Jeff Bezos and company.
“Quarry Yards is the ideal fit for Amazon’s HQ2,” stated developers’ pitch. “[T]here is no other site in Atlanta that can give Amazon a home on a perfectly located urban campus [that is] diverse, inclusive, energetic, active, and ready to rebuild a transformative ‘New Atlanta.’”
Regardless, the mixed-use development’s first phase is expected to break ground in the second quarter of 2019, covering 27 acres and costing roughly $400 million total.
Old Fourth Ward/Highlands
Choose ATL’s recruitment packet for the neighborhoods abutting the Atlanta Beltline’s popular Eastside Trail includes several revelations; namely, that a second phase of HQ2 development could have put at least the parking lots of Fuqua-developed Midtown Promenade in play, where Whole Foods and Home Depot operate today:
Sites expected to be developed as part of Ponce City Market’s second phase could have played host to HQ2 components, per the O4W pitch:
Developer New City’s overarching plans for the area and how they could have related to HQ2:
What a John Portman & Associates-designed “Amazon Experience Center” may have looked like at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This was considered among the chief incentives put forward by the city and HQ2-recruitment team:
On the bright side, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal pointed out in a statement this week that efforts to lasso HQ2 represented the “epitome of the state’s partnership approach to economic development,” in the country’s top-ranked state for doing business.
Only time will tell if that spirit of cooperation will endure for Atlanta’s sake—and if any of these big ideas might come to fruition anyhow.