Some reasons that the Panther Island site might suit the criteria Amazon is looking for in a location for their HQ2:
- Metropolitan areas with more than one million people:
Fort Worth is rapidly approaching the 1M population mark itself, the surrounding MSA including Dallas has more than 7M, and the Ft Worth/Arlington Metro Census Division has about 2.4M. The DFW Metro area is the 4th most populous in the country.
- A stable and business-friendly environment:
The area is well-known for attracting out-of-state businesses. Dallas is ahead of the curve in this department but Fort Worth has retained Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Alcon, BNSF and AA for many years. No state income taxes and an affordable cost-of-living would probably appeal to many of the employees who would relocate here.
- Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent:
Hmm, what is this talent pool likely to be attracted to? Education? TCU, UTA, UNT, TWU, Texas Wesleyan, TCC, UTA-FW, Tarleton-FW... Arts? FW Art Museums, Cowboy/Cowgirl, Cliburn competition, Symphony Orchestra, Opera season, Art and Music Festivals, Marathon and mudding events... Sports: Cowboys, Rangers, Hockey and B-Ball over in Dallas 30 miles away, motor racing, Colonial Golf tournament, Horned Frogs, Vaqueros soccer, and the possibility of a minor league Baseball team right in the middle of the mix, stadium already in place. Theater? Lots of traditional and avant-garde options close by including Casa Mañana, Bass Hall, Stage West, Circle, Jubilee, Amphibian. Hangouts? Stockyards, West 7th, New Southside, Downtown, and probably a whole new area in and around Panther Island. Recreation? Forest-Trinity, Gateway Parks, New state parks west of town and the LBJ Grasslands to the north, Trinity Trails, Trinity River canoeing/kayaking, several large area lakes. Climate... well it is different than Seattle... Except for blazing heat in the middle of summer it is really not too bad. Some rain but plenty of sunshine. Mild winters on the average, nice Spring and Autumn, and who knows, maybe the Summer we are just finishing up is the new normal. I would guess that the architects for Amazon would assure that trees, accommodations for structural shade and breeze, and other climate-mitigating aspects would be built into their designs. Living right next to urban water features should be nice for the employees and residents, but it would of course not be a direct substitute for Lake Washington...
- Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options:
Is there any larger scale US publicly-directed urban real estate redevelopment currently in the works than the Panther Island project? From the beginning this was pretty audacious, many if not most residents didn't think it would ever see fruition. What was once a decrepit former industrial area with serious environmental concerns is being developed into a unique urban neighborhood... and the final word on what it could be is still very much subject to negotiation. Much of the infrastructure that a relocating company would ask for in initial negotiations is already underway (bridges, streets, utilities) and this is an ideal time in the project timeline for other options that a potential client like Amazon might prefer to be incorporated into the plan. Historically Fort Worth has planned big, ref. Air Force Plant 4, Greater Southwest/Amon Carter Airport, and later DFW Airport.
HQ2 could be, but does not have to be:
- An urban or downtown campus:
At this point if Amazon opted in they could build out Panther Island to suit what they envision as an ideal Work/Live/Play (oops, sorry) environment best suited for their business needs and the needs of their employees. This is probably where the transportation needs enter into the equation. A streetcar line bisecting the island and connecting it to the Downtown ITC and the Stockyards TEXRail station would assure quick access to DFW airport. DFW is a huge selling point for any corporate relocation as there are non-stop flights to almost anywhere in the US, and an increasing number of foreign destinations, especially in Asia. Not to be forgotten is the option of corporate aviation services at nearby Meacham Airport; If Amazon were to build here I could see that as possibly the necessary tipping-point for a commercial carrier to consider scheduled service to places like LGA, DCA, LAX, oh, and SEA from FTW. This relocation could also be the kick-in-the-pants that would get Fort Worth Transit to initiate commuter train service from Downtown up to the Alliance Corridor; Alliance Airport/multimodal facilities, and existing Amazon installations. Depending on how they were to structure their incentives there might end up being a "reverse" commuter pattern from housing in Panther Island to the fulfillment centers around Alliance.
- A similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus:
See above; if Amazon leadership believes that the layout/configuration/composition of their current campus is ideal for their needs they could recreate it on the Island. Alternatively, they could incorporate the best if what they currently have with the best of the environment presented by Panther Island.
- A development-prepped site. We want to encourage states and communities to think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline.
This site just adjacent to downtown Fort Worth would probably be about as turn-key for new development as anywhere they could find that fits their size criteria. Things on the Island have been seemingly dragging along for years now because of the necessity of simultaneously pursuing federal funding every two years while scheduling the spending to acquire, clear, remediate, and replat properties and constructing the new infrastructure called for. It has been a balancing act making sure the resources are there for the development phase being worked on. With a major client like Amazon willing to take up the majority of the developable land on the site I bet work could jackrabbit forward with new private-sector financing secured by a new-found certainty of successful completion; i.e. less speculation. There are also state and COG/Transportation funds that could be accessed to put infrastructure projects on an accelerated track. Panther Island is probably the closest thing Amazon is going to find in terms of a clean slate, prepped and ready to roll for what they envision.
That said, Fort Worth should not participate with Dallas in a regional effort; this approach almost always results in these projects ending up in Dallas or Collin Counties, or in Arlington for that matter. I can see a Dallas-Regional bid centering on the Texas Stadium site in Irving... Even the earthquakes there could help to make the Seattle-transplants feel at home. If Amazon expresses interest in the Panther Island option the City, County, COG, and other interested entities (cultural, educational, technical, complementary business) should be prepared to address any anticipated concern that could be brought up during initial negotiations. This is an opportunity that Fort Worth should pursue enthusiastically as there seems to be an excellent match here between what Amazon says they want and what the city has to offer.