Amazon team headed to Chicago to inspect potential HQ2 sites

March 22, 2018 GMT

CHICAGO — An Amazon advance team will hit Chicago later this week to visit some of the proposed locations for a new headquarters, a source familiar with the visit who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly said Friday.

Company officials will visit a handful of the 10 sites city and state officials have pitched, the source said. It’s not clear how long the team will be here as it tries to decide where to build a second headquarters to complement the company’s first one in Seattle.

Officials in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration have declined to discuss details of the impending visit or what steps they are taking to make their sales pitch to Amazon. One of the reasons they’ve been so tight-lipped: They are operating under nondisclosure agreements with the company, the source said.

“Amazon has been running a very careful process,” Emanuel spokesman Grant Klinzman said. “We have respected the integrity of that process since the beginning and will continue to do so. I can tell you that we will continue to make clear to Amazon that Chicago is the ideal city for its second headquarters.”

Emanuel has been in pitchman mode for months, taking every opportunity to talk up Chicago’s well-educated residents and proximity to universities, public transportation, well-connected airports and inexpensive housing as good fits for Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ vision for the new headquarters.

John Schoettler, who oversees Amazon’s real estate, said at an event in Seattle the company envisions “a combination of buildings and facilities probably within walking proximity to one another.”

Schoettler also expressed an aversion to bids that propose spreading 8 million square feet of offices onto several sites, unless those sites can be expanded or connected. And he indicated Amazon would heavily weigh factors such as availability and cost of housing and proximity to public transportation.

The Chicago bid proposed 10 potential sites, including some that would combine and connect buildings and land controlled by multiple owners.

One such option would combine space in the vacant old main post office, a redeveloped Union Station and the 110-story Willis Tower. Big land sites include 62 acres along the Chicago River in the South Loop, which Related Midwest plans to develop; more than 70 acres of riverfront land near Lincoln Park and Bucktown, which developer Sterling Bay is calling Lincoln Yards; 37 acres along the river between downtown and the North Side, owned by Tribune Media; and the former Michael Reese Hospital site and other land south of McCormick Place, which a team led by Farpoint Development and Draper and Kramer is redeveloping.

The two suburban options are the Oak Brook campus McDonald’s is set to vacate as it moves its headquarters to Chicago and land on the longtime Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg.