Credit: Andrew Barnes | AgentArchitecture

Urbanism

Deep Ellum Has Its Own Amazon HQ2 Proposal

It seems like every city in America is courting the Seattle-based tech giant. Now the Deep Ellum Foundation has found a spot for it near Fair Park.

A word of caution to DFW’s regional leaders regarding the Amazon HQ bid war: Way back in 2001, Dallas-area business leaders launched a blitz to win the headquarters of Boeing, but it ultimately lost out to Chicago. A few years after the fact, a former Boeing CEO told a group of Collin County business leaders that one of the reasons Boeing stayed away from DFW was because too many of the communities and cities within the region were fighting with each other for the location of the corporation’s headquarters:

“They were spending more time throwing rocks at each other than they were saying ‘You really want to come here,’ ” [former-CEO Phil] Condit said. “There’s a lot to be said for working together to accomplish things.”

Flash forward, and it looks like the DFW region hasn’t learned the lesson. A few weeks ago, Amazon made a splashy request for potential location bids for the location of its second corporate headquarters, and DFW cities have begun to throw their hats in the ring, even though there are risks related to this kind of intra-regional squabble for the corporate version of Cinderella’s glass slipper. 

One is that the Seattle-based corporation might be scared away from DFW if, like Boeing, it doesn’t want to deal with the regional politics of picking a princess. The other is that the images of the region projected by videos like the one Frisco made — which show the mayor cradling a football at the Dallas Cowboy’s new Star facility while garbling lines like “Frisco is a deal maker” and Frisco “thinks outside the box,” against images of a kid grinding at the town’s skatepark — may not be match what Amazon’s looking for, and they may write-off the whole region as a result. After all, when you look at the videos Amazon has made to recruit employees to their current location, they dwell on things like Seattle’s access to mountains, hiking , food, seafood, and biking to work in a cosmopolitan city. How could DFW best compete with that?

Enter a new proposal drafted by the Deep Ellum Foundation. The neighborhood group has located a spot just to the west of Exposition Blvd. and adjacent to Fair Park that it believes best satisfies the expectations laid out in Amazon’s request for proposals. In an email, Deep Ellum Foundation Executive Director Jessica Burnham explains that, unlike some of the suburban bids, the Expo Park site offers available land for infill development that can accommodate both new buildings and adaptive reuse of historic structures. It would be located adjacent to a vibrant urban neighborhood, accessible to rail and trails, and have Fair Park at its door step.

For Dallas, the benefits of such a location are obvious. An Amazon HQ2 located at the entrance of Fair Park could help revitalize the park, and it would bring tons of jobs right to the edge of South Dallas. The plans also show how a redevelopment of the area could tie into the CityMAP plans for lowering I-30 and could be accomplished within current zoning.

For Amazon, the location offers the kind of walkable, vibrant, urban environment that the company knows it needs to recruit employees, while also situating the new headquarters a short skip away from a major continental distribution and logistics center: the Inland Port project in southern Dallas. Rope in easy access to the Trinity River and Trinity Forest, and while it isn’t exactly kayaking on the Puget Sound or snowboarding at Mt. Baker, it starts to look like what Amazon might actually be looking for in a new home.

A proposed central location of the new Amazon headquarters, like the idea of placing it in Expo Park, both represents DFW’s best shot at landing the Amazon headquarters and happens to be the most advantageous location for maximizing the headquarters’ impact on promoting regional sustainable growth, mobility, and access to jobs. In other words, there is a strong regional argument to be made that the best place to locate Amazon in North Texas would be at the center of the region.

But then, that’s the irony of this idea of regionalism. It’s never really about supporting the strength and sustainability of the region, but, rather, about reaping the short-term benefits and advantages created by cannibalistic competition between the region’s individual, single-minded member cities.

 

Comments

  • Pol Pot

    Interesting. On the one hand I can see this working. The proposal shows some underused/unused plots of land. It’s also very close to the southern end of Deep Ellum which is also underused/unused (Taylor and Hall) and would benefit as secondary development.

    On the other hand, Deep Ellum and Exposition Park would no longer exist as we know them today. Current residents would be priced out to make way for the new arrivals (except for the Case Building which will be expensive enough). Not everyone benefits when corporate behemoths move in, but that would be the case no matter where Amazon locates.

    How about a compromise: make sure that at least part of any Amazon campus is next to the Cottages at Hickory Crossing. For the type of tax breaks they are asking, the benefit needs to extend to the entire Dallas community, even those at the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder.
    –Brother Number One

    • Los_Politico

      I’ve seen/heard a lot of worry about “gentrification” in Deep Ellum lately. I get that with $24 burgers and the new fancy apartment building it’s not just scum bars anymore, but have the residents changed? There aren’t very many people living there as is now, and they aren’t exactly poor.

      DE hasn’t been known to house many families, children, or long term renters in my lifetime and I’m kinda old.

      If this HQ2 plan gentrified anything it would be Jubilee Park.

      • Pol Pot

        It is changing in my building. Some of the older artisan types are being replaced with frat bros. There are some rentals over on Exposition as well where it is a bit cheaper (above Pizza Lounge, etc.) that would simply not rent at $1 per foot anymore.

        Westdale owns a lot of the lofts in DE and is the one doing the Epic Building as well as partnering on the Case Building. Their latest commercial redo is the where Harlow MXM and the $24 burger reside. So a lot of the gentrification worry is related to Westdale specifically.

        Some of it isn’t so much as “gentrification” as “sterilization”. Which is a key difference in the way Westdale is viewed as opposed to 42 Deep Ellum LP which is keeping the murals, neighborhood feel, etc.

        You are absolutely right about Jubilee Park. Also, I am serious about the Cottages at Hickory needing to be a part of any plan that offers tax incentives.

      • 3FingerPete

        As part of “Old Dallas” the streets and infrastructure would need a massive overhaul to accommodate the increased traffic and housing.

        • Los_Politico

          You’re right, all of the streets need to be calmed and narrowed. Especially the disaster that is Expo at Canton.

    • 3FingerPete

      I would suggest a better location would be the land that used to be the home of the Astro Drive-In. Loop 12 near Mountain Creek Lake. Currently that land hosts car auctions and aging warehouse facilities.

  • Lolotehe

    What Inland port? I thought that died. Wasn’t that part of the Price case?

  • Los_Politico

    I love this location, but there’s no way HQ2 is going to be built around some highway curly-cue off ramps.

  • Max Powers

    Can we get this Boeing story straight?

    I thought Boeing passed up on Dallas because downtown was lacking.

    Didn’t the then-CEO of Boeing end-up living in Frisco after his time at Boeing?

    I can be wrong, but Boeing seems to be a bit more of stuffy company than say Amazon. Boeing is more like a state-owned enterprise. I do not see Amazon being turned off by seeing multiple proposals coming out of Dallas/Fort Worth. We would be worse-off if Dallas/Fort Worth submitted a one-proposal/pitch.

    • Hannibal_Lecter

      Boeing went to Chicago because the CEO wanted a place for his boat. Word on the street was that he had already rented a marina spot there beforehand. The whole “selection” process was a sham to justify a predetermined choice.

  • 3FingerPete

    If we’re supposed to think regionally doesn’t it make sense to start luring Amazon and future relocating companies to the southern half of Dallas County? How much further must southern county residents drive to reap the benefits of companies moving into the region? We already drive nearly to Denton as it is.