ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The Gateway to the West plans to bridge the mighty Mississippi in its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.
In the process, it may also bridge some long-time regional divides.
KMOX confirms the St. Louis riverfront north of the Arch, along with corresponding land on the other side around East St. Louis, will be offered to the technology, entertainment and retail behemoth.
Amazon set off a scramble among North American cities in early September when it requested bids for a new headquarters to be a full equal to the original in Seattle. It predicts eventually 50,000 jobs.
Amazon’s desires are specific, including only one bid per metro area. The deadline — October 19 — also doesn’t leave much time for debate.
“The really excellent part of this proposal, I think, is that the political leadership has set any personal or political interests aside and looked at it for what is really good for the St. Louis community,” said St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney.
She was in a KMOX studio Friday for an in-depth interview on the Amazon effort. You can hear the inside details on ‘Nothing Impossible’ with Michael Calhoun and Travis Sheridan.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann expressed early concern that his county would be left out of the process. Jefferson County Executive Ken Waller, though, noted at the same meeting that everybody in the region would benefit from such a large investment.
Missouri and Illinois competed fiercely for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s western headquarters, but St. Louis and St. Clair County are cooperating for Amazon.
Amazon is requesting information, for instance, about computer science programs in the region’s K-12 schools. Employees would live in area districts. Also, the company notes there’s been $38 billion in outside investment into Seattle’s economy as a result of Amazon’s presence.
In other words, there’d be enough to go around greater St. Louis.
In Amazon’s RFP, the word “downtown” is used five times, “urban” is used four times, “transit” is used three times and “crime” appears once.
St. Louis’ sales pitch itself is also coming together. KMOX was there when Joe Buck and others recorded their parts.
Creative, marketing and architecture firms including Rodgers Townsend, Bigwidesky, Elasticity, Werremeyer Creative, Mercury Films, Forum Studio and HOK are all doing pro bono work for the civic effort.
Bob Clark, of Forum and Clayco construction, has a vision that’s guiding the pitch.
Amazon wants to know about recreational opportunities and local culture, and hear testimonials from local large business executives.
“We want to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living,” the RFP says.
AMAZON ON THE MISSISSIPPI
KMOX first reported on the availability and possible desirability of the north riverfront just a few days after Amazon set off the race.
You probably remember it as the site proposed for a new NFL stadium.
Great Rivers Greenway’s 2016 plan for the area declared: “The Mississippi River is the most vital part of the DNA of St. Louis.” Those blueprints would blend the riverfront into Laclede’s Landing and downtown.
The huge numbers you’ve heard — 8 million square feet of office space with 50,000 employees — are Amazon’s eventual intentions. To start, they’re requesting at least a half-million square feet of space available almost immediately, along with ideas from there.
St. Louis will propose 909 Chestnut, the largest skyscraper downtown, as the move-in ready option. Built in the 1980s as world headquarters for Southwestern Bell, it’s now vacant. AT&T’s lease expired September 30.
Amazon’s RFP demands transit.
There are MetroLink stations at the base of the AT&T tower, at Laclede’s Landing next to the north riverfront and in East St. Louis. Additionally, there’s another downtown station on Washington Avenue.
“Everyone is joining together because it’s the best site.” Sweeney sums it up: “How about both sides of the greatest river in America?”