A jogger trots under cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Newark, N.J.APAmazon is narrowing down the search for the home of its $5 billion second headquarters, called HQ2. In January, the company selected 20 metros across North America as finalists.
One of the biggest underdogs is Newark, New Jersey, a city with an economy that has struggled to recover from the 2008 recession. To sweeten the deal for Amazon, Newark’s city council is expected to approve $1 billion in tax breaks for the tech giant on Wednesday. As Bloomberg notes, the deal is part of a $7 billion package New Jersey is offering to land HQ2.
At first glance, the bid, released by the state in April, doesn’t offer too many surprises. It boasts of Newark’s available workforce, vacant space, transit options, and economic incentives — all requirements that Amazon highlighted in its original request for HQ2 proposals from cities.
New Jersey also hints at other projects that are not directly related to HQ2, but that Amazon could be involved in. These projects include a fleet of driverless cars, a massive online library, and the development of entire housing communities.
Since Amazon chose Newark as a top contender, the bid suggests these kinds of civic projects — which go beyond its core retail business — are attractive to the tech giant.
Take a look at Newark’s bid below.
The city is proposing eight sites in its Broad Street Station District, Penn Station District, and downtown.
These sites include specific buildings, as well as general neighborhoods that have ample vacant space: SoMa, Mulberry Commons, Gateway Center, Matrix Riverfront, Lotus Riverfront, Military Park, NJPAC, 520 Broad Street, and 33 Washington Street.
Some of the city’s proposed neighborhoods are in the midst of mega-overhauls.
A rendering of the Riverfront Park redevelopment in Newark, New Jersey.Civitas
Riverfront Park, for example, is undergoing a $55 million redevelopment, which will add 20 acres of open public space, an urban beach, dog runs, art exhibition spaces, and recreational areas.
In a letter to Jeff Bezos in the bid, Newark CIO Seth Wainer writes that the city would provide free high-speed internet to HQ2 for a year.
Newark’s free outdoor Wifi network — which will double in size in 2018 — collects analytics on over 70,000 users who pass through Newark. It’s unclear what kind of user data the city gathers.
It’s also unclear whether Amazon would gain access to the data if it chose Newark for HQ2, but the bid suggests that would be the case.
Using this network, the city is proposing putting an Amazon Echo on every street corner, so passersby can ask the devices questions.
A jogger trots under cherry blossom trees at Branch Brook Park, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Newark, N.J.AP
As Scientific American notes, Amazon learns about its customers through Alexa-gathered data. During the 2017 holiday season, the company said it indicated that the martini and the Manhattan were the most-requested cocktails, “Jingle Bells” was the most common song, and the most common person called in the US was “mom.”
Data like this helps Amazon market products on its shopping site, and it’s possible the company could collect even more intelligence by replicating the strategy on street corners. This could also create some concerns about privacy.
In some ways, an HQ2 in Newark could look much like Amazon’s first home in Seattle. There, the company doesn’t just operate a few offices — It has transformed Seattle into a company town.
A man stands on a plaza on the Amazon.com campus as construction continues on three large, glass-covered domes behind him, Thursday, April 27, 2017, in downtown Seattle.AP
New Jersey’s bid includes a map that compares the scale of Amazon’s Seattle HQ2 with its proposed sites in Newark side-by-side.
Source: Business Insider and The Seattle Times