Charlotte, we need better ideas if we’re going to land Amazon. Look at what we’re up against

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Amazon is going to pick a city that thinks “big and creatively” for its second headquarters. I’m afraid Charlotte isn’t thinking big enough.

Dozens of cities across the country are going all-out to attract the attention of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as he decides where to invest $5 billion and bring 50,000 jobs in a headquarters that would be the equal of its current Seattle campus.

The deadline for bids is October 19.

What are we doing here in the Queen City? Not much. So far, Charlotte’s public pitch only entails a mediocre website, the #CLTisPrime hashtag and a photo contest.


Presumably, there’s more going on behind the scenes. The Charlotte Regional Partnership is shepherding the official bid, and told the Agenda that they have a team of 40 people working on the project, across the public and private sector.

They’ve put together a list of 22 potential sites, filmed a video and will be passing along letters from Michael Jordan and former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl. No further details have been given.

Yes, some top contenders like Boston are keeping things close to the vest as well. Other cities are submitting numerous potential sites. But Charlotte is an underdog in this competition, and I don’t think we have the luxury for either.

That’s not to say Charlotte isn’t a good fit. It is.

The good folks at the Carolina Fintech Hub hit on a lot of the key attractive attributes of the city during a public brainstorming session last week.

We have a low cost of living. We have a growing population, teeming with young professionals. We have a wealth of tech talent and a growing startup scene. We have homegrown success stories in Bank of America, AvidXchange and Red Ventures. And we have a history of big, visionary thinking.

[Agenda story: Could Charlotte take a run at the new Amazon HQ?]

We’re just not showing it here.

I don’t think Bezos is looking for a blank canvas, no matter how high-quality its material.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Other cities are going much harder.

Business Insider rounded up some of the more notable pitches.

Dallas is building its bid around a $15 billion bullet train.

Rendering by Texas Central via Facebook

New Jersey is offering up $7 billion in incentives.

Stonecrest, Georgia — a suburb of Atlanta — would de-annex a huge chunk of land and name it after the company.

OK, maybe that last one is pretty silly. But at least they’re trying.

Here’s my idea: Downtown 2 for HQ2.

I think the most promising site Charlotte has for Amazon is the River District, the project referred to as the “next Ballantyne” on the banks of the Catawba River.

For some reason, developer Crescent Communities was not asked to be a part of the bid process for Amazon. But the company has indicated it’s willing to be considered for Amazon’s second headquarters.

I envision Charlotte pitching Amazon this site as a “Downtown2 for HQ2.” A new waterfront skyline would emerge, anchored by multiple Amazon towers. We’ll build mixed-income housing and an entertainment district.

We’ll connect it to Uptown via light rail. And we’ll even build an MLS stadium out there.

I went ahead and designed a rendering to illustrate what I’m talking about. Charlotte Regional Partnership, feel free to include this in your bid.

I’ll admit, it’s a little rough. But it’s still better than what we have so far.

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Andrew Dunn
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