A Bloomberg article on September 12 reported that “several senior Amazon.com Inc. executives” were pushing for the e-commerce giant to plunk its second headquarters in Boston or at least the Boston area.
The revelation caused quite a stir. It hadn’t even been a week since Amazon announced it wanted to hear from cities across North America interested in hosting the new HQ (the company’s initial hub is in Seattle, pictured in part above).
What made Boston so attractive, per Bloomberg? Its proximity to great universities; its airport with its nonstop flights to Seattle and Washington, D.C.; and its existing ties to the region already, including an expanding office in Fort Point.
Also, according to the article, these Amazon execs appreciated Boston’s “lower cost of living [compared with] many other big cities.”
That’s where the report goes off the rails, right?
Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the United States in which to live in terms of real estate and other costs, including transportation. The Boston region, too, is one of the most expensive metro areas for the same things.
Boston might be inexpensive relative to San Francisco, San Jose/Silicon Valley, and much of New York City—all said to be Amazon contenders, too—but on its own it is extremely costly, even for households pulling in a healthy six figures annually.
Then there’s the transportation infrastructure, including a series of aged roadbeds and clogged arteries that make for some of the worst car commutes in the world.
And public transit presents its own sets of challenges. The T can barely service its current commuter load; add 50,000 Amazon employees and ... even if a fraction of those expected hires join the scrum, look out.
Then there are construction costs—again, some of the highest anywhere and certainly in the United States. The state and the city had to dole out millions in aid to lure General Electric and its approximately 800 employees to a new Boston HQ. Imagine what a hard sell for Amazon will cost.
Finally, there’s the weather—and not necessarily because the winters here can be brutal. It’s that that winter weather often disrupts travel to and from Logan Airport, which would seem to negate the benefit (at least for two or three months a year) of having such an airport nearby. Imagine an already six-hour flight to Seattle turning into a nine- or 10-hour ordeal because of bad weather.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Amazon picks Boston and/or its surroundings. (For its part, the company says it’s still weighing all comers equally.) It’s just that Boston would seem to have more strikes against it than for it in such a quest.
- Amazon Weighs Boston in Search for Second Headquarters [Bloomberg]
- General Electric pushes back opening of Fort Point building to 2021 [Curbed Boston]
- Rents in the Boston area: Cambridge, Brookline, and Boston the priciest [Curbed Boston]
- Boston traffic among world’s worst, new report says [Curbed Boston]
- Boston Logan airport hotels: the top ones nearby, mapped [Curbed Boston]