What Is Amazon Looking For in Its Search For a New Headquarters?

The City of Chicago announced Wednesday it is seeking nominations for potential locations to house Amazon’s second headquarters.

The online giant plans to invest $5 billion in the new site that will eventually house 50,000 employees – a revelation that has caused cities across the U.S. to engage in a charm offensive to lure the company in.

So what exactly is Amazon looking for? The company says it has a preference for metropolitan areas with more than one million people, a “stable and business-friendly environment,” urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent, and communities that “think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.”

As far as those options go, sites should be ready to develop, Amazon says. They’re looking for a location that has an initial capacity for 500,000 square feet of space, with the ability to expand up to 8 million square feet over the next 10 years. Amazon wants its second headquarters to be within 30 miles of a population center, within 45 minutes of an international airport, no more than one to two miles from major roads and highways, and with access to mass transit on site.

The City said only property owners may nominate a location, and that respondents – who are encouraged to partner with other entities – must have “demonstrated experience and wherewithal” to deliver a project that fits the city’s and Amazon’s requirements.

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

Some of those sites could include near the new Google headquarters in the Fulton Market District, the Old Main Post Office downtown, the former Finkl Steel site near Lincoln Park, or even the property of the old Michael Reese Hospital that was set aside for an Olympic Games that never occurred.

A team from both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois headed to Seattle Tuesday to check out the company’s main headquarters, leaving both Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner optimistic.

“I think our team came away feeling like we’re well positioned, very well positioned and we are going to continue to be all in,” Rauner said Wednesday.

“The key thing is they have an idea of what their headquarters of the future would look like. I want to make sure we have an understanding and appreciation of that as we put our proposal together," Emanuel said.

"They are looking for an incredible, world class, skilled, educated workforce… no other city but Boston has what we have,” he continued, adding, “This is where Chicago shines and we are going to shine.”

The City’s deadline to apply is Sept. 27, while Amazon’s deadline for Chicago and other interested cities is Oct. 19.

The company is expected to make its final selection sometime next year, with construction to begin in 2019.

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