Sites in the White Flint area of Rockville and the White Oak area of Silver Spring may be included in Montgomery County’s proposal to Amazon to host the latter’s second headquarters.
As previously reported, as many as 100 states and localities in the United States and Canada are submitting proposals, which are due to Amazon on Oct. 19. Amazon will sift through these first-round bids, and from them choose semi-finalists and finalists in second and third rounds of bidding, before choosing a single location sometime next year. Amazon expects the second headquarters to bring 50,000 mostly high-skilled, high-paying jobs to the winning jurisdiction.
There is no clear public information on what sites, financial incentives, and other features are in the County’s proposal. Amazon is demanding that jurisdictions applying for “HQ2” keep their proposals out of the public eye. David Petr, CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, told the Sentinel that he is under a nondisclosure agreement with Amazon on this matter. MCEDC is the entity submitting the County’s proposal to Amazon.
Patrick Lacefield, information officer for County Executive Ike Leggett, said the applications are confidential despite being of substantial public interest. Lacefield indicated that Leggett will co-sign the County’s proposal along with Petr. He said that county agencies helping to draft the proposal include the Administrative Office (part of Leggett’s office), the County Council, the Department of Transportation, the Planning Commission, the Department of Permitting Services, and the Public Information Office. Beyond that, Lacefield declined to give any further information.
The Amazon Request for Proposals asked for a site of 100 acres with excellent transportation access to transit, roads and airports, as well as nearby existing and available office buildings with at least 500,000 square feet where it could establish a “beachhead” by 2019. The company would build approximately 8 million square feet of office and work space on the main site.
The White Flint site appears to be the one choice in the County that meets most of Amazon’s criteria. The location at Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane encompasses 75 to 80 acres including not only the former White Flint Mall, which still has an active Lord & Taylor store, but also all the shopping and office locations along Nicholson and near the corner of Nicholson and the Pike.
If White Flint is chosen for the HQ2 site, it would involve the relocation of about 50 mostly prosperous retail locations including the Fitzgerald Auto Mall and the White Flint Plaza outdoor shopping center anchored by a Shoppers Food Warehouse store. There also is an office building with tenants involved in scientific research. The relocation effort would be very substantial and expensive but might be justified to win the Amazon HQ2.
Notably, Lerner Enterprises, owners of White Flint Mall, applied to the Planning Commission in 2012 for a zoning change encompassing 5.3 million square feet — two-thirds of the 8 million square feet upon which Amazon wants to build. The Lerner application has been on hold since November 2012, perhaps because of litigation with Lord & Taylor, which sought successfully to keep its store at that location open. That litigation was resolved early this year.
Because the Mall site comprises only about two-thirds of the acreage of the whole Pike/Nicholson corner location, approval of the density Lerner proposed for the Mall site would accommodate all the office building square footage Amazon is seeking.
The location is within walking distance of the White Flint Metro station, and within a mile and a half of the Grosvenor and Twinbrook Metro stations.
The White Oak site is part of the Federal Research Center along New Hampshire Avenue that includes the Food and Drug Administration. It lacks a nearby Metrorail connection and “beachhead” office space. In contrast to White Flint, it would not involve relocating any businesses.
As reported earlier, County Council Member Nancy Floreen had listed the Comsat site in Clarksburg and the Public Service Training Academy near the Shady Grove Metro station in Gaithersburg as other possible places for the Amazon HQ2 project.