2017-10-27 / Front Page

Town wants Amazon HQ2

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Scarborough officials have put in an application to have Amazon build its second headquarters on 430-plus acres of land around the Scarborough Downs racetrack. Competition for Amazon is fierce as more than 100 communities from across the country, including several in New England, are putting together bids. The final site location is expected to be announced next year. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough officials have put in an application to have Amazon build its second headquarters on 430-plus acres of land around the Scarborough Downs racetrack. Competition for Amazon is fierce as more than 100 communities from across the country, including several in New England, are putting together bids. The final site location is expected to be announced next year. (Michael Kelley photo) Books, clothing and other items from Amazon have been delivered around Scarborough for years, but town officials are hoping the company has a much larger presence in town by locating its second headquarters on land where Scarborough Downs has operated since 1950.

In September, Amazon announced due to the growth of the company, it is looking to set up a second headquarters somewhere in North America to complement its 8.1-million-squarefoot headquarters in Seattle, which employs more than 40,000 people and covers 33 buildings.

While larger cities, such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles and close to 100 other communities across the United States and Canada have thrown their hats in the ring, Town Manager Tom Hall said town officials have applied to have Amazon sited somewhere on the 435-acres Scarborough Downs property, which is currently under contract to be sold.

Hall said the potential owners support Scarborough’s bid for Amazon. The property is under contract to be sold to Crossroads Holdings LLC. Earlier this year, a deal to sell the property to Scarborough Downs LLC, a company formed by Thomas Powers, of Cohassett, Massachusetts fell through.

While Hall knows it is unlikely the multi-billion company will locate to Scarborough, he said it is worth putting in an application anyway, even through there is stiff competition, even locally.

According to an Oct. 18 article on cnbc.com, Amazon is being lured by several other New England communities, including Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Haven and Stamford, Connecticut; Boston, Fall River, New Bedford and Worcester, Massachusetts; Manchester, New Hampshire and Providence, Rhode Island.

Scarborough will even have competition in state. Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has also put in a proposal to offer the former Brunswick Naval Air Station as the site for the new Amazon headquarters.

“Admittedly, it is the longest of long shots, but we see the value in the process forcing staff to spend the time to collect the data this is requesting,” Hall said at the Oct. 18 town council meeting.

Council Chairman Shawn Babine said applying for the second headquarter site was “a good academic exercise in how we can be a better promoter of our community in the global world,” if nothing else.

Hall said submitting an application had been discussed and debated by town officials over the course of the past month, but development on Scarborough Downs property came up during Planapalooza, a series of conversations held last month to gain public input on the comprehensive plan update.

“Almost as a validation of what we’ve been thinking, one of the resonating topics – in fact I attended one of the sessions and I think all 10 tables had talked about this – was the value, importance and interest in the development of Scarborough Downs as really a key ingredient going forward,” Hall said.

According to Amazon, the company is looking “for a location with strong local and regional talent – particularly in software development and related fields – as well as a stable and business-friendly environment to continue hiring and innovating on behalf of our customers.” According to the request for proposals document, Amazon has a preference for a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people. The site could be, but doesn’t have to be in an urban or downtown campus or in a “development-prepped site,” but does need to be within 45 minutes of an international airport and no more than a mile or two to a major highway. Scarborough Downs property is a short drive away from the Maine Turnpike and a 10 to 15 minute drive to Portland International Jetport.

“We want to encourage states/provinces and communities to think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline,” Amazon indicated in the request. Priority will be given to existing buildings of at least 500,000 square feet that meet core requirements, a greenfield site of 100 acres with utility infrastructure or other in-fill options that meet company specifications.

Amazon expects to invest $5 billion over the phased project to make it “a full equal” in size and scope to the company’s Seattle headquarters. The second headquarters could create as many as 50,000 jobs and cover 8 million square feet. The new Wentworth School, the last major construction project done by the town, is 115,000 square feet. L.L. Bean in Freeport covers roughly 200,00 square feet and Maine Medical Center in Portland and Maine Mall in South Portland are 1 million square feet each.

Final site location will be announced by Amazon in 2018.

However unlikely, councilors said it was worth a shot.

“Never say never,” councilor Kate St. Clair said.

“You can’t score if you don’t shoot,” councilor Chris Caiazzo said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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