ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — It’s crunch time. Cities have just over two weeks to perfect their sales pitches to Amazon for its second headquarters.
St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney joked during Wednesday’s meeting of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments that there’d likely be cots soon in the hallways of their offices.
Amazon set off a frenzy with its announcement on September 7th.
Sweeney, though, also faced questions like one from St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann on how it’d be decided which local site is the one. Amazon is very clear that it doesn’t want to gorge on each region’s buffet of options — it just wants the most incredible each area has to offer.
The e-retailer’s preference that proposed sites be served by rail mass transit would seem to rule out St. Charles County, whose voters rejected a MetroLink expansion in 1996.
KMOX News asked Sweeney if she feels pressure to include every part of the region, even if that’s not what Amazon wants?
“Going by what Amazon puts forth in that RFP has to be our number one priority,” she affirmed. “If we’re not responsive to a man of the stature of Jeff Bezos and his extremely qualified and intelligent team, we’re not even going to be considered.”
“Amazon’s 33 buildings in Seattle are all downtown, so do you think that downtown St. Louis needs to be the centerpiece of this?” KMOX News asked St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson after the meeting.
“I do,” she replied.
East-West Gateway Executive Director Jim Wild suggested a special, closed meeting of the council once more before the bid is submitted.
Jefferson County Executive Ken Waller remarked that many Amazon employees would live in his and other suburban counties. He recalled the Chrysler plant closure having a huge effect on his area, even though the assembly lines were in St. Louis County.
The stakes are high. Amazon says the new headquarters in whichever city it chooses will be a full equal to the original in Seattle. The company estimates 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment.
To get started, Amazon wants at least 500,000 square feet of office space — but eventually plans to build out to as much as 8 million square feet.
Downtown’s newly-vacant AT&T tower at 909 Chestnut St. seems to fit the bill for a ‘starter pack.’ KMOX News did stories immediately after Amazon’s announcement examining the viability of the AT&T tower and the uniqueness of the north riverfront, which already has master plans thanks to Great Rivers Greenway and NFL stadium effort.
Amazon is looking for a world-class view.
So, will those be part of the sales pitch?
“I think they have to be,” Sweeney said. “That is what makes us a contender.”
She also said that it’s “wonderful” the region has two airports — St. Louis-Lambert International in St. Louis County and Mid-America in St. Clair County — which have excess capacity to be offered up.
St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern told us the East St. Louis riverfront would probably be his county’s contribution to the effort. It has MetroLink access. It also has quite the view.
Amazon’s deadline is between October 16th and 19th, so bring on the cots.