Amazon reps pay visit to Philadelphia to scout HQ2 sites

Amazon Spheres
Pedestrians walk past the Amazon Spheres at the company’s headquarters in downtown Seattle.

Add Philadelphia to the list of cities visited by Amazon scouts in connection with the company’s planned second headquarters.

An Inc. site-selection team recently spent about a day and a half in Philadelphia, where they met with officials involved with the city’s proposal to the company, Mayor Kenney said in an interview Wednesday after a presentation to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s real estate membership group.

No elected leaders, including Kenney, met directly with the Amazon team, he said. He declined to share any other details that he knew about the visit, including its timing.

Other cities to have confirmed visits from the technology and e-commerce giant concerning its headquarters project, nicknamed HQ2, include Denver, Washington, Dallas and Austin.

Jessica Calter, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which has been managing the Philadelphia’s interactions with the Seattle company since the city was named among 20 finalists for the second corporate campus, declined to comment on the selection process.

“We continue to be excited to be one of the 20 cities moving forward in the Amazon HQ2 selection process, which continues to benefit the city and region,” Calter said in an email.

Amazon declined in an email to comment beyond a standard statement concerning site visits: “Amazon is working with each HQ2 candidate city to dive deeper on their proposals and share additional information about the company’s plans. We’re excited to visit each location and talk about how HQ2 could benefit our employees and the local community.”

The visits are part of the second phase of Amazon’s site search that began with its selection, announced in January, of the 20 locations it planned to consider for the headquarters project after reviewing 238 proposals from throughout North America. It has said it will choose in 2018.

The company’s plans call for spending more than $5 billion on the new corporate campus, where up to 50,000 people will be employed. It has said it could eventually put 8 million square feet of offices at the site, an amount of space equal to almost 6½ Comcast Center towers.

Philadelphia’s bid to Amazon centers on sites in University City and the South Philadelphia Navy Yard. All could satisfy its need for 500,000 square feet of space in 2019, the city said in its bid to the company.

Bill Luff, founder of the commercial property consultancy CRE Visions, said data on educational attainment and business climate can go a long way toward helping a company vet potential sites for relocation or expansion, but on-the-ground visits such as the ones now being paid by Amazon to candidate cities can be a deciding factor.

“There’s a familiarization that takes place that goes way beyond any of the submitted information and goes way beyond the real estate transaction aspect,” he said. “It becomes, ‘Hey, what’s the feel of this city like?’ “

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