Amid quest for Amazon, Atlanta studies giant office complex

AP News
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Posted: Jan 25, 2018 8:05 AM

ATLANTA (AP) — As Atlanta vies to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the South's corporate capital, details of a massive proposed development are coming into view from public records:

A $5 billion project downtown would have 9.3 million square feet (87 million square meters) of office space. That's more than three times the amount in New York City's Empire State Building.

A Los Angeles-based development firm plans to present its proposal Thursday in Atlanta.

The office space that would be created "is almost exactly two Sears Towers," said Thomas Leslie, an architecture professor at Iowa State University who is the author of "Chicago Skyscrapers, 1871-1934."

"It would be like building two of them right next to each other," Leslie said the 110-story Chicago high-rise, which has since been renamed Willis Tower.

Public documents filed by the group don't mention Amazon, but specifications of its proposed project are in line with the retail giant's requirements.

The development would include 18 buildings in a part of downtown Atlanta known as "The Gulch," now covered with parking decks and vacant lots and sometimes used as a film set, according to planning documents from the Atlanta Regional Commission. Hollywood crews used it to film scenes from the 2016 movie "Captain America: Civil War." The AMC TV show "The Walking Dead" filmed from a rooftop overlooking The Gulch during the show's first season.

The office space would be spread throughout 14 of the buildings, which would range in height from 70 to 500 feet (21 to 152 meters), the planning documents state. It would also include a 350-foot (107-meter) hotel with 1,500 rooms and three residential towers.

The projected completion date is 2026, which is when Amazon has said it needs up to 8 million square feet (743,000 square meters) of office space in its second headquarters building known as HQ2 which could potentially bring 50,000 workers.

The timeline is "ambitious, but doable," said Richard Porter, a professor in the School of Building Construction at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Details of the project and its timeline would be likely adjusted, depending on market conditions in the next few years and other factors, Porter said.

Amazon's Seattle headquarters is 8.1 million square feet (753,000 square meters), and includes more than 30 buildings.

Most of the 20 finalists for the Amazon project are keeping details of their pitches secret, but Boston has gone public with a massive development proposal on the scale of the Atlanta project.

Along with Atlanta and Boston, the other 18 communities still in the running to land the Amazon project are Austin, Texas; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; New York City; northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, North Carolina; Toronto and Washington, D.C.