City’s Amazon pitch: Free land for Downtown campus

Shipyards site included in property offered for internet giant’s second headquarters.
By: 
Dec. 14, 2017

Jacksonville is offering the Downtown riverfront Shipyards site at no cost to Amazon.com for a campus “in the heart of our waterfront city.”

The Seattle-based e-commerce retailer seeks 100 acres for its second headquarters, called HQ2.  The company said it received bids from 238 city, state and regional governments. Jacksonville was among those who submitted bids by the October deadline.

Amazon said it would choose a site in 2018 for the $5 billion, 50,000-job headquarters that would be developed over 15-17 years and pay an average salary of $100,000.

Jacksonville’s presentation included a 3-minute 36-second video promoting 200 acres along the Northbank riverfront for a live-work-play environment for Amazon. It touted property between the established office district and the Daily’s Place amphitheater and EverBank Field for the campus.

An illustration from a video shows the potential Amazon headquarters between EverBank Field and Downtown. The video is part of Jacksonville’s bid for the project.

“Your campus and our urban core will become one,” it says. Amazon can “grow comfortably at your pace” along the St. Johns River.

Conceptual renderings of the proposed riverfront Amazon site show what likely is supportive development nearby.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is negotiating with the city to develop the Shipyards site. The Downtown Investment Authority chose a company controlled by Khan to serve as master developer for 70 acres from the Shipyards to Metropolitan Park.

JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of JAX Chamber, showed the video Thursday at its quarterly partnership meeting. “We will be aggressive in pursuing this project,” says the video.

It was the first public viewing of the video. Mayor Lenny Curry said he was reluctant to share it, but was persuaded by City Council member Aaron Bowman, JAXUSA senior vice president of business development.

The center of the Amazon campus is shown facing a large marina.

Curry said there are times when city leaders should show special work.

In remarks lasting less than 2 minutes, Curry talked about the efforts but did not share details about the bid.

“As strong as our proposal is, we are in the first quarter,” he said. “There is a lot of work left to be done.”

Curry said city leadership works closely on many projects, with Amazon an example.

“This is what your chamber and your city and your City Council does every day,” he said. “This is what we do.”

Asked for more detail about the site, spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said Thursday afternoon that the administration did not have any accompanying narrative or additional information to provide about the video or proposal and sent a statement from the mayor:

“I greatly appreciate and value the work city staff and the chamber have led on the development of this proposal. Proposals are a first step that communicate our genuine interest, commitment, and vision for a project,” he said.

Images special to the Daily Record An overhead view of the potential Amazon site Downtown. It incorporates the Shipyards property and areas around EverBank Field and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

“This Amazon project, like any other project we pursue, will be negotiated against a scorecard to ensure it provides a return to taxpayers and contributes to job growth and economic development. We will continue to work hard on this deal that would result in over 50,000 jobs for Jacksonville.”

The video did not mention city or state incentives.

It focused on factors it considers attractive to Amazon employees, such as the Beaches, entertainment, transportation, connectivity and medical centers.

It also talked about Florida and Georgia colleges whose graduates are potential employees.

City and JAX Chamber leaders said Jacksonville’s relationship with Amazon will work in the city’s favor.

Amazon set up four sites this year in Jacksonville — two fulfillment centers, a sortation center and a delivery station —and expects to create at least 5,000 jobs among those.

The city and state offered $26.7 million in incentives for the fulfillment centers, which are creating the bulk of the jobs in Northwest and West Jacksonville.

Amazon said the HQ2 project would start with 500,000 square feet of space and grow to 8 million square feet over a decade.

It announced in September it was accepting requests for proposals from metropolitan areas for the project.

The Amazon campus is shown from the east with EverBank Field featuring a shade structure.