Detroit offers room to grow in pitch for Amazon headquarters

By Corey Williams
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — In its pitch to persuade Amazon to locate its second headquarters downtown, Detroit has offered something once considered an embarrassment: vacant space.

Detroit’s proposal to the Seattle-based online retail giant includes office space in existing buildings, more square footage in projects under development and nearly 100 acres to build on.

The pitch also features a promise from local utilities to offer wind power and systems to help maximize energy efficiency in Amazon buildings, and research and development partnerships with colleges and universities.

Amazon has made clear that tax breaks and grants will be a big factor in its decision about where to locate its $5 billion project.

Detroit released its response to Amazon’s request for proposals as part of Freedom of Information Act requests, but it redacted the dollar value of its proposed incentive package.

Dan Gilbert, founder of online mortgage lender Quicken Loans and Bedrock commercial real estate, was picked last year by Mayor Mike Duggan to lead the team pursuing Amazon.

Detroit’s bid, which was submitted in collaboration with the state and Wayne County, also dangles a low Michigan corporate tax rate and economic development tax incentives.

Those include allowing Amazon to keep all of the state personal income taxes paid by its employees within key headquarters development sites for 10 years, and half of the taxes for the next 10 years.

The Associated Press sought proposals from dozens of the 238 applicants trying to draw Amazon’s second headquarters. More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, Cleveland and Las Vegas, refused the requests, while others like Detroit and Philadelphia released their proposals with the financial details redacted.

The AP also sought invoices outlining how much public money was used to create the proposals and on public relations campaigns to promote them.

A spokeswoman for Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate said that details would not be released on how much was spent on Detroit’s response, public relations and on a more than 240-page book — “MOVE HERE. MOVE THE WORLD.”

The full-color book is 9-inches by 12-inches and nearly an inch-thick, and it highlights the benefits of locating in Detroit and the region.

John Roach, a spokesman for Duggan, said salaried City Hall staff worked on the pitch. Roach said he believes one of Gilbert’s companies paid for the book.
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Among the things highlighted in Detroit’s pitch to Amazon:

— 3.2 million square feet in existing buildings, 1.3 million square feet of development projects that are underway and 71 acres of development sites in the U.S., and 20 acres across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

— Enough vacant land and surface parking lots in Detroit’s Central Business Districts and four surrounding neighborhoods to accommodate another 191 million square feet of development.

— Monthly rents in greater downtown average $1.28 per square foot, according to figures in the response to Amazon.
 

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