It's OK that Amazon HQ2 won't be in Boston, experts say
The tech giant's headquarters would have put added strain on Boston housing and transportation, and didn't have a plan to assuage those concerns.
The search for an Amazon HQ2 location is finally over, and though Boston was on the list of finalists, it didn’t win big. To some, though, that’s a good thing.
“I feel just fine that we didn't get it,” said James Stockard, a Harvard lecturer on urban planning and an expert on affordable housing. “I think there were some major problems in our future if we had gotten it.”
Amazon HQ2 promised 50,000 jobs to its new home city. That will now be divided in half as the tech giant has chosen two new locations: Crystal City, Virginia and Long Island City, New York.
Though some of those jobs will certainly be filled by people already in the area, thousands of others are expected to flood the new HQ2 locations. In Boston, this would stress the already-in-crisis housing market.
Stockard said that he hasn’t seen anything yet suggesting that Amazon is “prepared to make a contribution in some way to the housing problem they're going to cause by all these new employees.”
“The idea of adding that many employees without thinking carefully of what you’re going to do about that is not a very healthy contribution in my mind,” he said.
The potential influx would have added pressure to Boston’s transportation, as well.
Thomas Glynn, former head of the MBTA and outgoing chief executive of the Massachusetts Port Authority, said in a recent Radio Boston appearance that the question of how to accommodate 50,000 people — even if it was over a 10 year period — was an important question.
“We’ve had a lot of population growth in Boston over the last 10 years,” he said, “so we’re getting to a point where we really have to be very strategic and savvy to accommodate new growth.”
Even without HQ2, Amazon’s presence in Boston is strong. Last year, the company said it was bringing 900 jobs to Fort Point, and in May, Amazon announced another Boston-area expansion, saying it would take over an office in the Seaport that will be home to 2,000 workers.
“Amazon is an important part of Boston’s economy, a large employer and a valuable partner who is actively hiring in Boston and the area,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement on Tuesday. “While I am proud Boston was named to Amazon’s shortlist for its second North American headquarters, our future will not be defined by a single company as we continue to plan for equitable, sustainable growth.”
Pedestrians cross Congress Street near the parking lot that will be the future site of a new Amazon building bordered by Congress Street, East Service Road and Boston Wharf Road in Boston's Seaport District. Photo: Getty
HQ2 would have brought more jobs, sure, but to some, the negatives were clear — and were clearly not being addressed as the bidding war between cities escalated.
“I always hate to be person who says no to something,” said Stockard. “I think the better answer is always, ‘OK, here’s an interesting proposal, we can see the upside. Let’s look at the downside and how can we fix it so that we can have the thing we like.” And we don’t ask that question often enough, I’m afraid.”