Mayor Rahm Emanuel wasn’t kidding when he promised an “all hands-on-deck, all-resources-to-bear” bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
Try more than 1,200 hands.
More than 600 movers and shakers have signed on to a committee supporting the drive to win the heated competition for Amazon’s $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs.
The committee will be co-chaired by a rainbow coalition of heavy-hitters: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds and Abbott Labs Chairman and CEO Miles White.
Emanuel, Gov. Bruce Rauner and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will serve as honorary vice chairs. There’s hardly a civic or religious leader or a big-name in business, finance, technology, education and the arts who is not included.
“This unprecedented coalition brings together the public and private sectors . . . to speak with a powerful, unified voice that says Chicago is the ideal location for Amazon to build its new home and continue to grow for generations,” Emanuel said in a news release.
Rauner has spent more than two years denigrating Chicago and campaigning for a turnaround agenda he didn’t get.
But he sounded more like a cheerleader Wednesday, arguing that the committee’s broad base “compellingly represents the assets that Illinois offers business. . . . Their involvement sends a great message about the value of doing business” here.
If only sheer numbers were enough to mask the Chicago’s area’s biggest drawback — the political dysfunction in Illinois that triggered the marathon state budget stalemate that has left Illinois’ massive pension crisis unsolved.
The committee was announced on deadline day for “nominations” for Chicago sites suitable to become home to what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has called “HQ2.”
City Hall refused to release the list of sites or even the overall number.
To make the cut, sites had to be submitted only by the “property owner or an entity with site control.”
Respondents were encouraged to forge partnerships with “other nominating entities.” But they were also required to have “demonstrated experience and wherewithal to perform and deliver a project” that meets the demands laid out in Amazon’s RFP, the city said.
The requirements include 500,000 square feet of “initial space” that can be expanded to up to 8 million square feet over the next decade. That’s enough space to house as many as 50,000 employees.
Nominated sites must also provide “direct access” to mass transit, be located within 30 miles of a “population center” and 45 minutes of O’Hare Airport.
The sheer size of the HQ2 project and the must-haves in Amazon’s RFP limit the choices to only a handful of Chicago sites.
The Chicago Sun-Times has zeroed in on six possibilities: Old Main Post Office straddling Congress Parkway, perhaps in conjunction with the adjacent Union Station project; two in the North Branch Industrial Corridor; the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 62-acre site in the South Loop once owned by convicted felon Tony Rezko; and a site at Roosevelt and Ogden avenues that is in the Illinois Medical Center District, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stroger Hospital, the VA Hospital and Rush University Medical Center.
Emanuel has said he doesn’t want to “pick favorites about sites.” That’s Amazon’s job. But he has argued that Chicago is not like other cities “limited to maybe only one choice.” Chicago has “a number of sites” that can satisfy Amazon’s demands — either for a “vertical” campus or a “horizontal” one.
Later Wednesday, the mayor is scheduled to “tour progress” at the Old Main Post Office, a former civic embarrassment that is finally under construction.
Last summer, Emanuel’s bold threat to seize control of the 2.5 million-square-foot behemoth that straddles the Eisenhower Expressway culminated in a court-approved agreement with its new owner, 601W Companies LLC, to begin a five-year, $500 million renovation and restoration.