Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ could have a seismic impact on the University of Denver area

MapThe old Gates Tire and Rubber Company site is only three miles from the University of Denver and a nine-minute drive from University & Evans

The Denver Real Estate Journal published a piece on Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ which is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs for the eventual ‘winner’. And, depending on your point of view, the award is certain to be transformational for the city that wins the Amazon sweepstakes. As we all know, it could be good or bad – depending on your view of urban growth, job growth, economic growth, real estate values, city services and traffic.

A number of cities are vying for the honor but Denver is one of the finalists. Already a major hub for the online retailer, Amazon already has a significant presence in Denver with over 1,500 employees and counting. And while many have speculated that the Amazon selection team will want to add a presence in the eastern time zone, others argue that Amazon’s very own selection criteria place Denver among the leaders.

Image result for Amazon HQ2
Image courtesy The Denver Post

While the actual city sites scouted by the Amazon team have been kept in confidence, there are several Denver area locations that would fit the HQ2 requirements according to the Denver Real Estate Journal. So what are they looking for? According to their own criteria:

  • An urban or downtown campus
  • A similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus (Urban)
  • A development-prepped site with both available functional space and shovel-ready development space
  • Mass transit serving the site (train, bus, interstate)
  • Employee housing options in close proximity to the site
  • 30 miles or less from a population center
  • 45 minutes to an international airport
  • Meet Amazon’s corporate and civic culture
  • Local government cooperation to facilitate and contribute assemblages, fund infrastructure, and expedite planning, rezoning or entitlements (i.e. The ‘winner’ pays)

According to the article in the Journal, “Realistically, only downtown and near downtown Denver contain the dense development that effectively serves as a ‘population center’ targeted by Amazon.” This is especially true for millennial software developers who skew male and urban. So, should Denver be selected for HQ2, the article suggests four areas – Elitch Gardens, Northern RINO, Upper Fox and Gates (I-25 & Broadway).

And, the likely favorite, with the least amount of complications may either thrill or disappoint you. At less than three miles from the DU campus and a mere nine-minute drive – you are there.

The former Gates Rubber Company site would be the clear winner with the greatest benefit to Amazon and the least number of encumbrances. This, of course, would have the greatest impact on the University of Denver and the surrounding neighborhoods if the combined Broadway Station/former Gates plant and Denver Design District were to come to fruition as Amazons new HQ2.

The old Gates Rubber Company site could be the location selected for Amazon’s new HQ2 location

The Gates site has mass transit options with rail stops and RTD’s second-busiest station (I-25 and Broadway) stop. While there is a need for improved I-25 connections for motorists, plans are already in the works for next year to improve the exchange. The Broadway Station/former Gates plant recently was upzoned and would offer a master plan suitable for Amazon’s campus headquarters. RTD’s 5-acre station site will need improvements which would be funded by local taxpayers or the State of Colorado. New office buildings are planned north of I-25 which should be able to accommodate short-term space needs that Amazon will need as early as 2019. And if Amazon’s Seattle headquarters is any indication, 15% of their employees work in the same zip code as the home office and 20% walk to work. That would mean that Platte Park, University, and University Park would be at even a greater premium than today.

While all of the Denver proposed Amazon sites would likely impact DU in one way or another, the Gates site would have the greatest direct impact on University Park, Platte Park, Overland as well as retail development along South Broadway and the University of Denver. Amazon employees would be seeking real estate near their work, frequenting local businesses and placing greater demand on local services. DU would also likely be a beneficiary of the rapid growth with employees and families seeking degrees and taking continuing education courses. Further, public-facing offerings from the University such as athletics, the Newman Center and ongoing lecture and educational series would likely enjoy a bump from the influx of new community members. But there may be a steep price to pay for local citizens caught in the middle of intense development and explosive growth.

Amazon’s presence would be transformational, yes. But at what price?

7 thoughts on “Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ could have a seismic impact on the University of Denver area”

  1. Sorry, but I find it highly unlikely that Amazon is going to pick Denver. My bet is Atlanta or DC, frankly.

    Denver is a great city, don’t get me wrong – it’s why I went to school there. But positioning a HQ so close to Seattle doesn’t really net anything in the way that east coast and some Midwest cities would. Denver’s airport is nice enough, but Atlanta, Chicago, New York, DC and others all serve more international destinations – and that’s key for Amazon’s growth. Atlanta has an advantage being, effectively, kitty-corner across the country from the original HQ and an easy hop-off point for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) destinations. Amazon is trying to get deeper into original content production, and Atlanta has become a hotbed for major film production recently. Having close access to those facilities may be very appealing to Amazon. DC has a clear advantage putting Amazon close to lobbyists and major political decisions which could impact the company significantly. Chicago has a number of universities nearby – Northwestern, Illinois, etc. – and may be an easier sell to attract talent from the east coast. New York is…well, New York, and puts the headquarters in close proximity to Canada, which may be a benefit for Amazon (in addition to whatever offices/operational support they have north of the border in the first place). It would position HQ2 close to a number of fashion brands, and of course some of the up-and-coming fashion designers, which will be critical to Amazon as it looks to keep pulling market share away from Target in particular.

    While Denver is a great town, it doesn’t offer any advantage that I can see that the other possible cities don’t have, or don’t have in greater depth. Quality of life might be the biggest benefit Denver would have over some of the other “contestants,” and my guess is that that won’t be the most important criteria for Amazon.


  2. Denver doesn’t need any more growth!!! Our cost of living is already increasing at an alarming rate.
    I believe Atlanta makes more sense for Amazon for all the reasons stated.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No chance for a Denver location.

    A majority of the U.S. population is east of the Miss river and AmaZon H.Q. is on the other side. It’s East std. time belt location for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Denver . . . a finalist. There currently are 20 finalists.

    As others said, Denver won’t be picked because it’s to close to Seattle. Makes no sense.

    Atlanta is a favorite, D.C. Also Boston and its multitude of universites. Amazon has already bough/leased buildings within the last 6-12 months.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, god, please no. Why don’t those f-ers take their headquarters to a downtrodden city that actually needs it, instead of a city where it will dramatically make things worse for current residents?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. When you’re one of 20 you are, for sure, not on a finalist list.
    Relax folks, Denver doesn’t have.a chance. You are being played.

    It’s east coast ,or close, where most of the people live.
    Remember Amazon H.Q. is on the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “While many of the finalist cities were euphoric to make the top 20 list, some have been less enthusiastic about welcoming the massive company into an dense, urban environment.

    Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said he’s “not going to cry” if Amazon chooses another of the 20 finalist metro areas over Denver, according to The Denver Post.

    “There will be a sense of relief if they choose somewhere else, because there are a lot of challenges and lot of hard work we will be avoiding,” Hickenlooper told the City Club of Denver on Tuesday, according to the Post.”


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