By Shannon Frost Greenstein
Countless cities submitted bids to be the location of the next Amazon headquarters, and Amazon has announced today that they have narrowed down the candidates to a list of 20. And, yes, Philadelphia is on that list.
To some, the appeal of Amazon HQ2 is obvious…up to 50,000 jobs for the region, the 5 billion dollar investment in the new headquarters, and the technological talent it would bring to the city. Mayor Jim Kenney has been pushing hard for the honor, submitting a bid which highlights Philadelphia’s cost of living, its rail and transportation network, its infrastructure, its access to higher education, and the available locations around 30th Street Station and the Naval Yard.
In response to today’s announcement, Mayor Kenney said, “Philadelphia’s inclusion in Amazon’s Top 20 potential locations for HQ2 is an exciting milestone for the city. We are thrilled at today’s announcement, and look forward to working with Amazon’s team on the next steps of this process to further highlight all that Philadelphia has to offer.”
However, not everyone is overjoyed at the potential new resident of our fair city. There are fears that housing costs will skyrocket, that mass gentrification will occur, that the city’s poorer residents will be driven even further away into sub-par rental spaces. In Seattle, for example, where Amazon’s flagship headquarters is located, an apartment downtown cost $42.08 per square foot to rent in 2016, compared to $39.79 in 2015 and $31.38 in 2009. Home values have reportedly increased 11.2 percent in the last year alone.
Many feel that Philadelphia, as the nation’s poorest large urban center, should be addressing the existing issues with illiteracy, homelessness, and the public school system before dividing its resources to accommodate Amazon. Lingering debt and urban decay, they argue, should be the focus before landing yet another high-profile partnership which will unfairly burden those in the city who can afford it least.
Nonetheless, Philly is one of the 20 finalists, so people’s opinions may be moot…Amazon might be coming, whether the city is in favor or not, and we’ll have to wait to see the long-term implications of the partnership if Philadelphia is indeed selected.