Jeff Bezos’ retailer behemoth Amazon Inc. had no love for New York on Valentine’s Day, announcing it was canceling plans for a corporate campus in Long Island City. In a reverse of the iconic breakup phrase “It’s not you, it’s me,” Amazon blamed its decision on politicians who “will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.” Ouch.
Meanwhile, a few hours north in Boston, a trio of long-armed Catipillar Inc. excavators—each weighing close to 100 tons—have been digging this week at the construction site for Amazon’s new offices on Boston’s waterfront. It’s not a “headquarters,” as Amazon described its New York development, but a “tech hub.” Amazon announced plans in May to lease 430,000 square feet in the building that will house 2,000 workers when it opens in 2021, adding to the more than 2,000 Amazon workers already in the area. The Seattle-based company will occupy the entire building with the exception of some first-floor retail space. Most of the employees will be focused on Alexa, Amazon Web Services and Audible, the company said.
Amazon said on Thursday that most of the 25,000 jobs that the company had promised to create in New York will now go to other offices and tech hubs in 17 North American cities, including Boston, San Francisco and Vancouver. The retailer said it has no plans for an alternative HQ2 site, disappointing some opportunists in Beantown who responded to the news of New York’s jilting by tweeting lines from a 1974 Dave Loggins song: “Please come to Boston for the springtime. I’m stayin’ here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room.”
Boston was one of the 20 finalists Amazon named for its HQ2 more than a year ago. The city had pitched the use of a 161-acre parcel on the north side of the city, straddling the boundary of Revere, where the Suffolk Downs horse racetrack is located. The track, opened in 1935, is where some of America’s most famous horses such as Seabiscuit and Whirlaway once competed. Boston’s failed pitch proposed renaming it “Amazon Downs.”
The site Amazon chose for its smaller tech hub couldn’t be more different. Instead of wide open spaces, it’s jammed into an urban setting. It’s located in a new neighborhood of Boston that’s called …. well, take your pick. Even the city planners keep changing their minds: South Boston Waterfront, or Innovation District, or Seaport District, or just plain Seaport. It used to be the place where Bostonians could park for around $20 a day and walk a few blocks past dilapidated warehouses, crossing the bridge over the Fort Point Channel, to Boston’s Financial District. Now, there are gleaming buildings under construction on most of the blocks surrounding Amazon’s site.