The idea of a huge second Amazon headquarters in the Twin Cities has “changed things quickly and dramatically” for the board in charge of the state’s largest development project.
Louis Jambois, the former head of the St. Paul Port Authority who is negotiating a development deal for the 427-acre Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) site in Arden Hills, said that while existing plans are “not out the window,” the Amazon opportunity has “caused us to rethink the opportunities here.”
With people all over North America salivating for a project promising 50,000 jobs, no one claimed that the bid will be anything but a long shot.
But the private-sector officials who won a tough competition to be named master developers for the TCAAP complex said they are going all out.
“We’re going after this to win, not to place,” vowed Bob Lux of Alatus LLC.
“We are working 24/7 on this,” said Tom Shaver of Inland Development, the commercial side of a sprawling project that also includes substantial residential components.
“To have 430 acres, unencumbered, there can’t be more than one or two sites in the state like this,” Shaver said.
The site sits along two major freeways, is minutes from two downtowns and is close to an Anoka County airport suitable for corporate jets.
Not every site courting Amazon will have the infrastructure that local governments have patiently spent years installing, Lux added.
“It’s sitting there waiting: The roads have been put in place, it’s incredible. We have an educated workforce here, many Fortune 500 companies, and by air it’s a quick jump to any coastal area.”
Ramsey County commissioners and Arden Hills leaders agreed that it’s worth pursuing, that even a loss will lead to more exposure for the site.
“No words lend itself to what an opportunity this is for the selected community,” said Arden Hills City Council Member Dave McClung.
Greater MSP, an economic development group, is asking officials around the metro area to submit ideas by Friday. Amazon has asked each metro area to coordinate a submission rather than be bombarded by multiple jurisdictions.
Amazon is expected to seek subsidies and incentives for the blockbuster project, and it remains to be seen how Minnesota will compete there.
Amazon’s offer sheet could be read as leaning toward wanting what it has in Seattle with its existing corporate headquarters, namely an urban site with easy access to a robust transit network.
The most the local site seems able to offer in the near future is a busway extension leading to light rail.
Pollution left by the military installation in Arden Hills also could be viewed by Amazon as a negative.