Ever since Amazon — the on-line retailer headquartered in Seattle — announced in September that it’s seeking requests for proposals (RFPs) for a second corporate headquarters, more than 200 American cities have submitted proposals, including Bayonne and Camden. A construction company that owns land in Secaucus also has entered a proposal for the project.
DT Allen, a Midland Park, N.J.-based contracting company, submitted an entry for HQ2 by Secaucus Junction in October, The Secaucus Reporter has learned. Mayor Michael Gonnelli and the company’s vice president, Greg Allen, confirmed last week that the company submitted plans.
Titled “A Vision For 15X,” the plan — if chosen — looks to transform 105 acres, from the Secaucus Junction NJ Transit Station to the Hackensack River, into a mixed use, transit-oriented Amazon Global Headquarters Village development.
However, Gonnelli and other city representatives said that they’re against the proposal as it stands, because it would include some corporate housing, adding to the town’s population. But they say they would not be against a plan that brings Amazon to the town, in general.
In an October letter to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, County Executive Tom DeGise endorsed the proposal, saying that “Hudson County’s unique landscape, culture, and facilities present an exciting opportunity for Amazon to create a new headquarters which will fulfill Amazon’s soaring ambitions.”
The plan’s name stems from the site’s proximity to Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike. Uses would include retail, hotels, restaurants, parks, and even a publicly accessible marina.
The plan’s creators also believe it is consistent with the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s Vision Statement, including revitalizing underused areas and creating a revitalized urban landscape.
Currently, DT Allen owns 65 acres on the site, primarily vacant land. It is on the former Malanka landfill, partially located in Secaucus and Jersey City.
The company would move to acquire an adjacent 40 acre portion of an abandoned PSE&G former coal plant property, should Amazon choose the plan. The company would also propose a public private partnership with the state to acquire an additional 4 million square feet for site expansion above the Secaucus Junction Station.
This would create a total of 8 million square feet for the site.
DT Allen argues the location satisfies four of Amazon’s core site requirements in the RFP, including proximity to a population center—the site is five miles from New York City. It also satisfies the proximity to an international airport, as Newark Liberty is 15 minutes away by transit. It fulfills the requirement for nearby roads and highways—Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike is situated next to the area. And it provides access to mass transit, as it’s one train stop away from New York City.
As part of its use as a transit village, 15X would also feature a commuter rail and Right of Way (ROW) connection enhancement.
“This project will accommodate a future Gateway Tunnel and possible Number 7 stop,” the plan says, referencing the $29 billion multi-agency project for a new trans-Hudson tunnel into Penn Station, and the Port Authority’s study of extending a New York City subway line to the area.
The plan was drawn up by planners hired by the company.
A financial boon?
According to Amazon’s RFP document, the city or town with the winning bid could be in line for strong financial gains. The project could bring over $5 billion in capital investment over its initial 15 to 17 years. It is also projected to bring 50,000 new, full time jobs to the area. The average salary for the full time employees would be around $100,000 annually, the company says. Amazon has estimated that its investments in Seattle from 2010 to 2016 brought in an additional $38 billion to that city’s economy.
Though many cities are gunning for the second headquarters, some have warned it could bring problems to the winning city.
Some municipalities have promised large tax breaks to the company as an incentive. “New Jersey offered $7 billion in potential tax credits, while California proposed $300 million in incentives over several years and Philadelphia said it may contribute as much as $2 billion in tax breaks over 10 years,” said an article in The Street, an on-line financial news services website. That could bring higher tax rates to residents.
Some critics aren’t necessarily against the expansion but want greater community input.
Recently, representatives from community organizations in over 20 states banded together to pen a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, expressing concerns about how HQ2 might alter demographics and character in the city it chooses.
The letter also gave Bezos suggestions as to how the company can better accommodate cities, including paying sales tax on HQ2’s building materials, supporting transit investment, and giving annual contributions towards the development and preservation of affordable housing in the winning city or town.
Even New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was cautious about Amazon setting up headquarters in the Big Apple.
“Something different is happening now that is very disruptive to communities,” de Blasio told the New York Times in October. “A lot of this is economic and consumer-choice-based. So a lot of people are turning to Amazon and other online options, that’s one of the underlying factors.”
In October, the state announced that they’d back Newark’s bid for HQ2. Does that present an insurmountable challenge to DT Allen’s proposal?
“No, because at the end of the day, Amazon is the one to make the decision to their best interest,” Allen argued.
Allen also believes that Newark does not have as much highway accessibility as the Secaucus location, and that Secaucus is more “centralized” to New York City.
How does local government feel?
Gonnelli said, “There’s a long way to go before they come here. The developer hasn’t come to the town yet. I know [DT Allen] submitted an application to put Amazon here, which in itself is great. But if they want housing here, we’re not supportive of that. We are against any housing whatsoever. Our schools are at the max now, and we’re really not going to let it go any further. It’s a pipe dream to us.”
Noting that the plan could include 3-5,000 corporate residences, such as luxury high rises and student housing, Town Administrator Gary Jeffas remarked “that would be a third of the size of the town right there, increasing our town’s population by 33 percent.”
The project would also require approval from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Gonnelli is a part of the NJ SEA’s mayor’s committee. He says that if the plan comes before the Authority, he will speak out against it.
However, Allen said, “The reality is, if Amazon expresses interest, Secaucus would have to take a more active role in the process, in order to get everybody on the same page. At the end of the day, this is a world-class project, not necessarily a town project.”
Jeffas said the mayor has not been very active in the NJ SEA since it consolidated the Meadowlands Commission in 2015.
Amazon is set to make a final decision on HQ2 next year, per its RFP document.
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