Westside Atlanta. Fort McPherson. The former General Motors plant. These are among the handful of developments that could potentially house Amazon’s much-ballyhooed second headquarters. All it has to do is choose Atlanta for its next home.
In its request for proposals document posted online, Amazon is looking for some very specific features. Among its core preferences: Forty-five minutes from an international airport. Thirty miles from major population centers. No more than two miles from major highways. Direct, on-site access to mass transit. Able to accommodate up to 8M SF of office in the next 15 to 20 years. “There’s not a lot of sites. Whatever is going to be done is going to require a huge assemblage,” Seven Oaks Co. principal Bob Voyles said.
In Atlanta, the sheer size of the development and its access to MARTA could be a limiting factor on where Amazon could go, Colliers International CEO Bob Mathews said. To put it another way, the potential Amazon campus would be equivalent to eight of the AT&T Midtown towers or eight State Farm buildings clustered together. “You’re looking about multiplying that somewhere around eight times. That’s a whole submarket almost,” Mathews said. “It’s going to take a lot of creativity if they want to infill [an urban location].”
Bisnow spoke to a number of developers and real estate experts to speculate where a campus could fit. And a number of contenders did rise to the top. Among the areas of town that could accommodate some or all of Amazon’s wish list include: Westside of Atlanta along the BeltLine. GID’s High Street site in Central Perimeter, which is planned for 8M SF of mixed-use. The Fort McPherson redevelopment. The Gulch in Atlanta, which is being courted by a Los Angeles development group for a $1B mixed-use redevelopment. Integral Development’s Assembly project at the former General Motors plant in Doraville. “With MARTA going to the west, I’m thinking the west side of town,” Mathews said, especially around the Atlanta BeltLine, the multiuse trail that has commanded so much attention and development in recent years. Voyles agreed Atlanta’s Westside has strong opportunities, particularly along Donald L. Hollowell Parkway and Marietta Boulevard, where the potential for land assemblages exists. “For me, my way of thinking, something of that magnitude makes sense around the airport,” including Fort McPherson and the Aerotropolis area near Porsche North America’s headquarters, Cumberland Community Improvement District Chairman Tad Leithead said.
Macauley Investments principal Stephen Macauley, who the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority tapped to partner in the transformation of a 145-acre former military base into a mixed-use campus — said the Fort McPherson site hits on a number of Amazon’s wish list items: close to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, plenty of land to accommodate the square footage and direct access to two MARTA stations. Amazon could also change the fundamentals of an entire community with its project. That is something Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos could potentially desire in a second headquarters project, Macauley said. “I think the big thing is my understanding of Amazon is that something that’s in their DNA … is being a catalyst for rejuvenation, revitalization. This would be an opportunity to be the catalyst, not just for the neighborhood, but for the entire region of Atlanta,” he said. “It would be that profound.”
The list is by no means exhaustive. And there is a potential for outliers. Colliers International Director of Research Scott Amoson said there is a potential for suburban sites in North Fulton and Gwinnett counties. And if you discount direct access to MARTA, that opens up many more sites in the metro area that could accommodate Amazon, including a major redevelopment of a retail hub like Gwinnett Place, some say. But Leithead said he was skeptical that a municipality would pony up the funds to expand MARTA to a property to give it direct transit access due to sheer cost alone. “That is a big number,” he said. “You’re talking billions of dollars.” The nearly unanimous opinion? Regardless where it could end up in Atlanta, if Amazon were ultimately to choose the region, the impact on the metro area and its economy cannot be overstated. “This would legitimize Atlanta being a legitimate competitor for high-tech jobs,” Leithead said, adding it would also validate Atlanta’s decision to invest in and expand Hartsfield-Jackson. “This would rank right up there of the top relocations in the city ever,” Mathews said. “Listen, let’s don’t underestimate what it’s going to take to try and win something like this. The RFP is looking for, ‘what are you willing to do?’ So we’ll see.”