Amazon announced on Thursday that it is seeking a new North American location to build a second headquarters, or H2Q as the company calls it. Amazon has issued an RFP – a request for proposals – pitting cities against each other for the estimated $5-billion in investment and up to 50,000 well-paying jobs.
For mayors and local economic commissions in Canada and the United States, winning the bid is the stuff of dreams. Meanwhile in Vancouver …
Councillor Raymond Louie: You get any sleep?
Mayor Gregor Robertson: Not a wink. I keep seeing those domes.
Louie: Me too! I can't stop thinking about it. Do you think we actually have a chance? I mean, Seattle is only like, 200 kilometres away. Why would they put a second HQ here and not somewhere back east? Toronto's John Tory is already all over this. So's Chicago, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, I mean even Ottawa and Halifax are getting in on this …
Robertson: You can't think like that. Vancouver makes sense. Like binary stars. The proximity works for us, same time zone, a quick flight …
Louie: Or a high-speed train …
Robertson: Nice. Write that down. Also, legal marijuana – write that down too. Look, we fit the bill in a lot of ways. Metro region of more than a million, communities that think big creatively. Plus our world class innovation ecosystem … I have no idea what that means but I just tweeted it …
Louie: A stable and business-friendly environment?
Robertson: Yeah, we'll need to work on that one. But man, the timing of this. If we pull this off before the election in October next year, we're gold.
Geoff Meggs: This is about concessions and incentives … and location.
Robertson and Louie: Geoff! What are you doing here?
Meggs: You think I'm going to leave something this important to you guys? This'll make Horgan golden too. Let's talk location.
Meggs: Downtown is pretty much built out – that's not a deal breaker – it says so in the RFP. Oakridge and the old E-Division site are out – that'll be all condos in a couple of years. Little Mountain – sure, it's huge and it's been vacant for 10 years but stacking what used to be a social housing site full of six-figure tech-bros? Well, that'll just look bad. What about the False Creek Flats?
Robertson: I like where you're going.
Meggs: Let's get real here. When the viaducts come down and the hospital is built those produce-row guys are going to realize they're sitting on a gold mine in land value and they'll sell out, especially if you rezone around them. We punch a new road through – with bike lanes, yada yada yada – and boom: We have a new residential community close to the hub. Emily Carr – the Centre for Digital Media? They're right there.
Louie: And close to breweries.
Meggs: Sure. So incentives? We give away the land. Promise to extend the Millennium Line west and rename it the Amazon Line. We call the whole thing The Amazon Innovation Corridor. They want a strong university system, right? The line goes all the way to UBC – no buses.
Robertson: Tax credits?
Meggs: Whatever they want. I'm thinking 10-year property tax holiday. Waive the development fees. Density – whatever they want.
Robertson: Sheesh, that's a lot to give away. And housing 50,000 employees? I mean, we've seen what's happened to housing costs in Seattle since they moved in. It's not good. Look at what the tech bros have done to San Francisco. We can't even house people right now.
Meggs: Look, either you want this or you don't.
Meggs: Huge domes dude, huge ones.
Robertson: I'm so freaking excited right now!
Meggs: Also, consider renaming the city Vanmazon.
Robertson: Love it!
Meggs: I'll go tell John.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.