To get a coveted second Amazon headquarters, Charlotte has to make the Internet giant’s shortlist, then beat out every major city in the U.S. – and then, the company would have to select from almost two dozen potential sites in Charlotte.
The Charlotte Regional Partnership has been tight-lipped about the 22 sites in Charlotte and five surrounding counties they submitted to Amazon in the region’s bid for “HQ2,” as the $5 billion project is known. The partnership has refused to give any details on the possible locations or tax incentives offered (though some developers, such as Crescent Communities, said they pitched some of their major new projects like the River District).
Executives at New Forum, the developer of Ayrsley in Steele Creek, agreed to talk this week about their pitch, which they said they gave the partnership for inclusion among the possible sites. And if you think Steele Creek doesn’t seem like it could fit 8 million square feet of office space and the 50,000 employees Amazon is expected to bring, New Forum vice president William Hodges disagrees.
“I really think the city would roll up its sleeves and provide the necessary infrastructure,” said Hodges. Amazon has said it would require public transit at whatever site it picks, and Steele Creek certainly has its share of traffic woes. The 28273 zip code has been named one of the nation’s hottest home sales markets for two years straight.
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A conceptual site plan provided by New Forum shows how Amazon could fit all its office space onto the 43 acres of undeveloped space left at Ayrsley. The plan shows 13 buildings, from 120,000 square feet to up to almost 2.2 million square feet, clustered around land that’s now vacant along Interstate 485. Hodges said they could build up to 10 stories tall, though a rezoning change could give them more height and eliminate the need for the 13th building.
“If Amazon comes to Charlotte, we could probably build higher,” said Hodges. “We had to show we could house 8 million square feet.”
He touted Steele Creek’s access to the airport, major highways and schools to draw potential tech workers from. Hodges pointed to companies such as Red Ventures that have built rosters of tech talent around Charlotte. He believes Steele Creek could meet the company’s requirements.
“I was like hold on, we check all of these boxes,” Hodges said of New Forum’s decision. Jeld-Wen, a door-and-window maker, is building its new headquarters in Ayrsley, and Hodges said the Amazon proposal made New Forum realize it could do a full corporate campus at the development.
Local officials expect to hear by Dec. 1 if Charlotte is still in the running. Even if Ayrsley doesn’t win the competition for HQ2, Hodges said the planning they’ve done could help land future tenants.
“It’s good to have that capability,” he said.