Atlanta misses likely spike in housing costs as Amazon locates headquarters elsewhere

By David Pendered

The good news about Atlanta not getting picked for Amazon’s second or third headquarters is that the region doesn’t face the prospect the wsj.com framed today in this headline: Amazon’s Move to Long Island City Sparks Condo Frenzy.

amazon spheres

Amazon is building futuristic office space at three structures it calls ‘spheres’ at its Seattle campus. The buildings are intended to provide places of refuge where workers can collaborate and think more creatively than they may at their workplace. File/Credit: NBBA via businessinsider.com

And the secondary headline, which reads: Brokers flooded with clients seeking real estate in Queens neighborhood, reminding some of pre-crash property boom

There was no immediate statement from Gov. Nathan Deal or Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms responding to Amazon’s selection of sites in New York and Crystal City, in northern Virginia.

However, the governor said last week that he wouldn’t be heartbroken if Amazon didn’t pick a site in Atlanta or other potential sites beyond the city’s limits.

“I think all of us had known northern Virginia (was a favorite),” Deal said. “We don’t have to have Amazon. We are very pleased that they recognized that we are a potential location. But we’re not going to have our hearts broken if they decide to go somewhere else.”

City and state officials had supported the proposal by California developer CIM to build a mini city of apartments and offices in Atlanta’s Downtown Gulch in part to accommodate Amazon, should it choose Atlanta for a second headquarters with about 50,000 employees.

Even when the tech firm announced it would open two additional headquarters, the Gulch was described as a logical fit for the firm.

Metro Atlanta seemed to meet Amazon requirements that its new location would be near a region with a population of more than 1 million residents; be close to an international airport, and have room to expand.

amazon hq2, map

Amazon included metro Atlanta on the short list it released of 20 metro areas it is considering for its second headquarters. File/Credit: amazon.com

Michael Sengbusch, of Georgia Tech’s technology incubator, said last week that metro Atlanta’s tech sector has a bright future regardless of whether Amazon chose the region for HQ2 or HQ3.

Senbusch also observed the region has to find a way to raise the awareness in the industry of the strengths that Atlanta offers a tech firm.

“For a company trying to do business here, the state and community offer great [assistance] to set up a business,” Senbusch said. “We have access to the airport and universities and organizations like ATDC and other incubators around town. Atlanta has a ton of good talent and a good cost of living. People are getting priced out of the Bay area. People pulling in $100,000 a year can’t make ends meet.”

In outlining three of metro Atlanta’s top strengths, Senbusch observed:

  • “Atlanta offers a viable alternative to companies;
  • “Atlanta offers a viable alternative to employees;
  • “Atlanta offers a viable alternative to investors.”

A report from real estate advisor CBRE showed Atlanta was attractive to incoming tech firms in part because housing was considered affordable to tech workers. An influx of even 25,000 well-paid workers likely would have shifted the city’s affordability index to a much higher bracket.

In New York, speculators who think the incoming Amazon will prompt a remake of a former industrial area into the next hot address are flooding real estate sales offices, according to the wsj.com report:

  • “During the first six days since Amazon’s interest in Long Island City became public, searches on the listing site StreetEasy.com for residential property in the neighborhood surged 295% from the same period a week earlier, StreetEasy said. The biggest spike occurred in the first few days after the news, when search volume jumped more than 400%, StreetEasy said.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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