George Sowa makes compelling case for Amazon's 2nd HQ

George Sowa makes compelling case for Amazon's 2nd HQ

Article originally appeared in The Times of Trenton:

Why Amazon would shine in Trenton
By George Sowa

Trenton New Jersey has come a long way… Ten years ago, no one would have ever imagined Trenton as a potential headquarters contender for the likes of Amazon.

Today, emboldened by ripe development opportunities and spirited collaborations, a growing number of Trenton stakeholders and newcomers see New Jersey’s Capital as a valuable treasure with substantial assets that no other city can claim.

Historically, Trenton played a pivotal role in the formation of the United States in 1776 when General Washington and the Continental Army defeated Hessian forces in the Battle of Trenton. The victory changed the course of the Revolutionary War, the United States and ultimately, the world.

When you take a step back and look at Trenton in its entirety, here’s what you’ll find: a storied riverfront, a rich past with riveted historical connections, an Olmstedian park, immense aggregation of publicly owned land, unparalleled transit access, and a recently completed city-wide community planning effort – all in one diverse capital city free from traffic congestion and buffeted from high housing costs.

Trenton is just a short distance away from Philadelphia and Newark international airports and scores of institutions including Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Rutgers University and Thomas Edison State University. Trenton-Mercer airport is also minutes from downtown Trenton and offers corporate chartered airplanes traversing the world.

When Amazon issued their RFP for up to 8 million square feet of office space to accommodate a second North American HQ supplementing the existing Seattle location, we moved swiftly to make the deadline and tell Trenton’s amazing story. People thought we were crazy and said, “Why Trenton?” After completing and reviewing our plan, people began asking us “Why not Trenton!”

We collaborated with city, county and state officials, as well as Trenton business leaders and residents, to discuss and review the plan, which includes a highly transit-oriented five campus design spanning over 14 million square feet and encompassing the Trenton Transit Center, all three light rail stations, the downtown core and the riverfront.

The plan connects these campuses by creating and enhancing the existing network of bike and pedestrian paths and establishing a main connector between the Transit Center and the Delaware River waterfront.

The excess square feet above Amazon’s desired 8 million square feet can be programmed for residential space, retail uses, structured parking or open space.

The design itself respects existing residential neighborhoods with an appropriate scale. It also respects Trenton’s recently adopted 250 Master Plan, a long-range comprehensive plan that will guide the city from now to the 250th anniversary of its incorporation in 2042.

Why would anyone, especially Amazon, consider Trenton? Think about it – Trenton is at the nexus of a transportation hub linking four train lines that provide easy access to the 6.1 million residents in the Philadelphia MSA and the 20.1 million residents in the New York City MSA.

Given the availability of commercial space, Trenton is poised to deliver a 500,000-plus square foot building within Amazon’s time frame. Also, one of the five campuses in our plan incorporates a Station Campus at the Trenton Transit Center.

The plan also features The Roebling Campus, creating a linear office park by connecting all three light rail stations to the Trenton Transit Center and renovating historically significant buildings (former industrial sites), which is reflective of Amazon’s Seattle HQ.

In addition to the many major highways offering easy access throughout the region and country, Trenton is well-positioned with easy access to Amazon’s existing or planned fulfillment centers in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. As a result, New Jersey is the third largest employer of Amazonians behind only Washington and California.

Also, what most people don’t know is that Trenton benefits from having more than 1.2 million students in over 200 higher education institutions with 70 miles, including three Ivy League Institutions (Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University).

The majority of land proposed for developed in our plan is publicly owned, underutilized, and not generating real estate taxes or owned by private developers. This creates an opportunity to think boldly about our city and its possibilities.

We think Trenton is full of possibilities. From a location perspective, Trenton offers a robust multimodal transportation network, proximity to a large population of people, and a great quality of life.

From an operations perspective, Trenton is in close proximity to Amazon’s 11 fulfillment centers across the region. Finally, from an economic perspective, the $5 billion in New Jersey tax credits match the estimate total cost of the project.

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