Of all 238 cities who responded to Amazon’s application for their second headquarters in North America, Philadelphia is one of the top 20 being considered, and the ideal choice for HQ2. Philadelphia is a diverse city that is in the midst of a building boom, with more than 20 high-rises currently underway and additional construction planned for 2018.
Amazon HQ2 is expected to invest more than $5 billion in construction and create 50,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania added 50,000 new jobs between July 2016-July 2017, with Philadelphia accounting for 90% of them. Compared to the other major eastern cities in the running like Boston, NYC and D.C., Philadelphia offers office rents at 30-45% less and housing prices that are 27% less expensive than Boston, 28% less than DC and 53% less than New York City.
Philadelphia provided three viable development sites to fulfill Amazon’s request for 500,000 s/f: The Navy Yard in South Philadelphia, Schuylkill Yards in University City and uCity Square in University City with additional buildable space on vacant and underused properties surrounding 30th Street Station. The city is rich in history and home to many historical landmarks and sites in addition to museums and collections of fine art. Consistently on the international radar as an epicurean destination, Philadelphia is known for its cutting-edge food scene and not just its cheesesteak.
As compared to Seattle, Amazon’s current headquarters, Philadelphia has similar statistics in size, income and transportation. Both offer ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. In fact, within the city limits of Philadelphia, you can traverse over 200 miles of trails through river valleys, waterfalls, pastures, woods and historic monuments.
Future Amazon employees would have a variety of transportation options, allowing them to drive, use public transportation, walk or ride their bikes to work. Retail, restaurant, sports and entertainment in Philadelphia are all near the neighborhoods and easily accessible on-foot, by bike, subway, regional rail, taxi or rideshare. Regional shopping centers are plentiful and offer tremendous range in retail options, price points and product offerings.
Finally, Philadelphia has heart and soul. And yes, a bit of an underdog mentality. The city prides itself on being culturally diverse with colorful lifestyles and individuality. Philadelphia is a city that never gives up and could offer the complete package for Amazon HQ2 and its future employees.
James Savard is executive vice president of leasing at Metro Commercial.