Portland to offer Amazon former post office site

The offer will not include any special incentives

Portland bought the downtown U.S. Post Office distribution center last year for redevelopment, Oct. 3, 2017. (Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Portland will offer Amazon the opportunity to purchase land in the downtown U.S. Post Office distribution center for its proposed new national headquarters.

According to Portland Housing Bureau Director Kurt Creager, the offer will not include any special incentives.

Creager briefly discussed the offer while speaking before the Columbia Corridor Association (CCA) last Wednesday. The bureau and Prosper Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission, jointly bought the 13.4-acre site last year for $88 million and are planning to redevelop it.

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“We’re going to say who we are, what’s going on, but not put too much effort into it,” said Creager, whose agency contributed $15 million to the purchase.

The site will be included in a list of other available properties in the region that will be submitted to Amazon by Greater Portland, Inc., (GPI) a regional economic development partnership dedicated to attracting new employers. President and CEO Janet LaBar would not disclose any of the potential sites to the Portland Tribune, but said Portland officials were free to discuss their site publicly.

Prosper Portland spokesman Shawn Uhlman confirms the site — officially known as the Broadway Corridor — will be included in GPI’s submission.

LaBar said GPI will submit its list by the Oct. 19, the deadline set by Amazon. The organization covers Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Yamhill counties in Oregon, and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington.

Seattle-based Amazon sparked competition among metropolitan regions in the country on Sept. 7 by releasing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a site for a second headquarters — dubbed HQ2. The RFP said the company is planning on spending over $5 billion to build an 8 million square foot facility that will eventually employ 50,000 people in phases.

According to Creager, the post office site is the only piece of property within the city limits large enough to meet Amazon’s needs. Even then, Creager said, that is because Prosper Portland already owns two adjacent parcels that will be included in the offer.

The Portland City Council is scheduled to increase the maximum allowable building heights on the post office site on Wednesday. They are currently capped at 75 feet. The council will consider increasing them to 275 feet and 400 feet, depending on the location within the site.

Speaking before the CCA, Creager said Amazon was unlikely to pick Portland because it is so close to the company’s existing headquarters in Seattle. LaBar disagrees, saying the proximity would make it is for company officials to travel between the two office by air or a new high speed rail line, which has been discussed by Oregon and Washington transportation official for several years.

“We think proximity is an asset,” says LaBar.

And GPI has released a statement that argues the metropolitan region meets the following four location preferences (LPs) in Amazon’s RFP:

LP1 – A metropolitan area with more than one million people. The Portland area has a population of 2.4 million, and according to Metro, our region is expected to see some 500,000 more people by 2040.

LP2 – A stable and business-friendly environment. The Portland area is home to many growing businesses, including high tech companies in the so-called Silicon Forest.

LP3 – Locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent. The Portland area workforce includes 50,000 “techies,” with 14,600 tech jobs added between 2012 and 2016 alone.Anchor companies include Mentor Graphics/Siemens PLM, Salesforce, Intel, Airbnb and Puppet Labs. Just ask AWS Elemental.

LP4 – Communities that think big and creatively. The Portland area is well known for its land use planning and mass transit system. It is also home to such creative companies as Wieden+Kennedy, ZGF Architects and Ziba Design.

LaBar also pointed to a Sept. 9 New York Times story that listed Portland among the top nine potential locations for the new headquarters, in large part because of the quality of life in the region. The article eventually eliminated Portland because of its proximity to Seattle and picked Denver as the top candidate, however.

Read GPI’s statement here