One portion of Miami’s Amazon application leaked online this week, and it includes drawings of a cutting-edge commercial and residential complex that a downtown developer launched several years ago.
Look closely, though, and there’s a twist: Where the old rendering featured clear sky above a courtyard of office dwellers, now there’s an Amazon drone delivering a package to one of the courtyards.
“If you zoom in, you can see ‘Amazon,’ ” said Michael Simkins, the developer behind the Miami Innovation District, a four-year-old concept that was tweaked for Miami-Dade’s application to be Amazon’s second headquarters. “They said to be low-key with the Amazon signage,” Simkins said of the marketing team behind the proposal, “but we did put that logo on the package.”
The 10-acre Innovation District land sits next to towers being built for the Miami Worldcenter project, which spans nearly 30 acres. Both were pitched as potential sites for Amazon, along with nearby undeveloped land, according to people familiar with the application. The area sits on the edge of the Overtown neighborhood and is branded as a new district called Park West. It also sits a few blocks west of downtown’s AmericanAirlines Arena.
With Miami Worldcenter and the Innovation District pursuing tenants, investment dollars and side development deals, Miami’s inclusion on Amazon’s list of 20 finalists offers the chance for instant occupancy. The two developments are at the heart of an effort to reposition existing Miami assets to fit Amazon’s requirements, and to balance gimmickry with pitches that seem unique.
“Cutesy things some communities have done to try and get attention, we just don’t think that’s going to make a difference,” said Michael Finney, director of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic-development agency. “We’re not going to start shipping palm trees to Seattle.”
The county joined Broward and Palm Beach in proposing eight suggested sites — five in Miami-Dade, two in Broward and one in Palm Beach. The locations of the sites weren’t disclosed by organizers of the bid, but in Miami-Dade, people familiar with the package said there were three sites in the city of Miami. That could amount to Miami Worldcenter, the Innovation District and nearby land held by developer Mitchell Newman.
The area already has Metromover stops that could connect Amazon to Miami-Dade’s transit system, and it’s a short ride to Brightline, the privately operated express train expected to link downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach later this year. Government officials and executives involved in the pitch see Brightline as key to convincing Amazon it can recruit the kind of skilled workforce it needs by tapping into labor markets well north of Miami.
While Amazon says it ultimately wants 8 million square feet of office space — enough to occupy the entire Innovation District as it is designed now — it likely will begin with a much smaller footprint in whichever city wins its “HQ2” competition. A request for proposals states Amazon wants about 500,000 square feet to start.
That’s still massive and would be enough for it to simply take over a 45-story Miami Worldcenter office tower that Hines is building at the corner of Southwest First Avenue and 10th Street. Hines already handles some real estate deals for Amazon, so that could get the potential site a closer look in Seattle.
For Simkins, the drone addition may be the most visible change in the pages of renderings available on his project website. For the Amazon pitch, orchestrated by Miami-Dade’s economic-development agency, the Beacon Council, Simkins also did a major reworking of the project’s specs to assign more space to office and less to residential.
Another built-in element to the Innovation project may look like an Amazon gimmick: the “Cloud,” an elevated uber-lobby and walkway that’s supposed to connect the various buildings and “provide an interconnective thread for the district that will become a signature iconic moment for the project,” according to the 14-page document labeled “Privileged and Confidential” and first published on the Next Miami real estate news site. Simkins confirmed it was his project’s portion of the Amazon application.
But the Cloud appeared in Simkins’ renderings well before Miami-Dade joined more than 200 other communities last fall in applying to be Amazon’s auxiliary headquarters — a secondary base of operations billed as eventually employing 50,000 people making an average wage of $100,000 a year. The payroll count would be enough to make Amazon the county’s largest employer, and grant Miami perhaps the most sought-after corporate bragging rights available.
“Saturday Night Live” has already featured its version of the City of Miami Chamber of Commerce (which doesn’t exist) pitching CEO Jeff Bezos with the help of Pitbull and a piña colada. The spoof is part of the national attention Miami is enjoying as an Amazon finalist — buzz developers think will boost sales and investment regardless of where Amazon settles.
“We think it works perfectly for someone,” Simkins said, “even if it’s not Amazon.”