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Friday, May 11, 2018

Cleveland's Amazon HQ2 Bid: Proposed Site was Tower City, Employees Would've Received 25 Percent Off RTA Passes

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 10:37 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF  BERNIETHOMAS68 VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Photo courtesy of Berniethomas68 via Wikimedia Commons
Though many of the key financial details of Cleveland's failed Amazon HQ2 bid remain under lock and key, documents released by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), first reported by Cleveland.com's Mark Naymik, show that the proposed local site for the tech giant's corporate headquarters was Terminal Tower and the adjacent Post Office Plaza.

The documents, prepared by NOACA for the city's bid, were furnished to local media after the Ohio Court of Claims ruled that the information could not be construed as a confidential trade secret and should be made public. Mark Naymik filed the complaint that led to the documents' release. NOACA did not appeal the court's decision.

"NOACA believes the ruling of the Special Master does not fully understand the position of the Agency as they relate to competitive elements of the bid proposal," NOACA said in a statement accompanying the documents. "However, NOACA leadership believes it is in the best interest of the community to not pursue the matter on appeal with the Court. Further action would only be a waste of public resources and divert the general public’s attention away from more pressing matters in our region."

As the special master noted, the documents contain generally promotional rhetoric touting Cleveland's advantageous location, public transit and highway infrastructure. The information (portions of which were likely cut and pasted into the bid itself) celebrate Cleveland's manageable commute times; its expanding network of bike and pedestrian trails; various downtown amenities; and the accessibility of Hopkins, Akron-Canton and Burke Lakefront Airports. 
But the big news, which had been kept secret until the documents' release, is the site location.

"Initial build-out of Amazon HQ2 will be located in the center of downtown at the historic Post Office Plaza and Terminal Tower facilities," the NOACA docs say. "This location provides unmatched access to public transportation, as Cleveland's main public transit hub is located within the complex."

The only other new information contained within the documents was a proposed transit incentive, in which Amazon employees would have received a 25-percent discount on monthly RTA passes. The incentive was pegged at more than $120 million over 15 years.

Additionally, if Amazon were to locate in Cleveland, the city would purportedly "accelerate" a massive expansion of the public transit system, increasing total commuter rail mileage from 37 to 111 by 2029. This aspirational tripling of capacity had been outlined in NOACA's Long-Range Plan. 

"The future of public transit—particularly rail—" the NOACA docs claims, "is bright."



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