Could Seaport Become the Site of Amazon’s East Coast Headquarters?
Amazon, the titan of online retail, is currently considering constructing a new, $5 billion headquarters in Boston. The applications for each recommended site for the project are due October 19th, and although the official sites are being kept under wraps until the due date, there’s a possibility that the rapidly developing Seaport District could be a candidate. Unlike other neighborhoods in Boston, the Seaport District has been purposefully focused on fostering its Innovation District, a booming commercial center that is also organically woven into the neighborhood’s urban fabric.
Unlike an office park or a distant suburb, The Innovation District has been designed to sustain itself at all hours of the day by creating a network of structures that allow people to both live and work within Seaport. The District has already attracted several large tech and energy companies, including General Electric and PTC, which have correspondingly developed large commercial real estate projects that have increased the demand for nearby luxury housing. This flurry of development has also placed a renewed emphasis on investing in infrastructure, specifically public transit. An aerial gondola has been proposed for Seaport, while other commercial developments within the District have purposefully integrated existing transit systems into the design of the buildings. Several development experts have noted that Amazon’s propensity for dense, urban centers that are well-serviced by public transit would make the Seaport District very attractive.
Amazon’s new headquarters is expected to create approximately 50,000 high paying jobs, so the competition for the site selection is naturally expected to be fierce. Speculation about what sites Boston is likely to submit into the application process has centered around four principal places, the first of which is a 161 acre plot in Suffolk Downs, which was previously the locale for a horse racing track. The second is in Dorchester, Beacon Yards Park in Allston, and the third is in Widett Circle in South Boston, an area that was briefly considered as a potential site for the 2024 Olympics. Bordered by Interstate 93 and the MBTA rail yards, Widett Circle is located in a very accessible area in terms of public transit.
The fourth potential site is currently occupied by the Fort Point Channel U.S. Postal Service in nearby South Station. City planners note that if this U.S. Postal facility were to be relocated, the 618,000 square foot footprint of the building could be easily expanded to 6 million square feet if the city were to allow a 10 floor area ratio, thus providing amply for Amazon’s likely needs. Additionally, South Station is currently planning to expand its transit hub, a process which will see a rejuvenation and extension of the MBTA line. South Station’s proximity to the Innovation District, in addition to its role as one of the principal transit hubs in the Greater Boston area, has led some development experts to note that Seaport would experience significant upticks in property values if Amazon chose the South Station site, even though the headquarters would not technically be within the District’s bounds.
The application process currently has no official governmental favorites, because the state of Massachusetts has said that it will back all applications equally.