I was intrigued, like many others, on what the City of Cleveland’s proposal to land the second Amazon Headquarters was like, After all, the Plain Dealer editorial board wrote in May 2018 that it was “more feeble than expected”. From what we knew at the time, it looked like Amazon was being offered all the empty space vacated by Forest City Enterprises in the Terminal Tower. However, as the local media has put out there last weekend, the unredacted version of it was a lot more than that, and I still have to read the copy I downloaded myself to figure it all out. However, Sam Allard in Scene Magazine wrote a piece that in a way sums up what I think so far.
He’s right, the incentives WERE insane, and you kind of wonder how, for Cleveland’s part, it could afford it. What intrigues me the most is what Cleveland was willing to offer in tax incentives, more than $800 million and a $50 million tax credit. Where did they plan to get the money? One can safely assume that the income tax increase people voted for in 2015, which was for better services like police protection, went into this pot of gold. It was going to be a city within a city, or a downtown within downtown so to speak with a few things that were way over the top. The new electric grid, was that at least going to be operated by Cleveland Public Power? In the case of Google moving to the Bakery Square project in Pittsburgh, one can safely argue that they got a lot more bang for their buck; and with lower tax breaks and dollars too.
CSU was to offer 10 acres for an Amazon University to train a local workforce. Now what would an employee of the Amazon HQ2 do differently that would warrant something like that? Couldn’t CSU’s college of business come up with a program let’s say Amazon HQ2, a fast track degree to excellence sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation? Where the heck were these ten acres going to be located, next to Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro campus where there is probably is ten vacant acres to house such a thing? How about the still empty former Juvenile Court complex on East 22nd St? Let me read that proposal again.
It wasn’t surprising to see the names of the two Joes, as in Joe Roman (of the Greater Cleveland Partnership) and Joe Marinucci (President of the Downtown Cleveland Greater Alliance) popping up in this and many other articles regarding the proposal I’ve heard these names, and even met them, as far back as twenty years ago when I was working on my Masters and Cleveland State University. Admittedly, looking at the finished product, this is the type project that, back then I would have dreamed working on right now. But, that not the point, it’s just that those tax dollars Cleveland (and Cuyahoga County for that matter) was going to throw away at this pipe-dream were meant for something else, like keeping our neighborhoods safe which this year seems apparently a tall order to do. As of this writing, Cleveland is carrying a budget surplus in the millions while potholes are popping up on neighborhood streets and the sporadic shootings continue.
One last thing, Sam Allard’s article ends with what I call a bit of a warning:
“And while the Amazon bid is among the more extreme imaginable cases, packages of this nature, thatched in private by mostly private leaders, with the potential to radically reshape the contours of the central business district while crippling the city and county for years in the future) are a rotten plank in the region’s economic development platform.:” (People are Mad about Cleveland’s $3.5 Billion Amazon HQ2 Bid for the Wrong Reasons ).
However, as seen by Gateway, Tower City Center, Brown’s Stadium, money for the Gund Arena..I mean Q…renovations, this is just the logical progression of what so many of us living here have seen before.