Dear Mayor of One of the 18 Losing Amazon HQ2 Cities,
So you lost Amazon HQ2. Now what?
Alongside hundreds of North American cities, you took stock of your natural and human assets and then pitched them to Amazon, who decided to split their new headquarters between New York and Northern Virginia instead. It might seem like a wasted effort, but by losing Amazon, you’ve gained something even more valuable: a focused and attuned sense of place, a sense of who you are and what you offer. You’ve measured your assets, quantified them and organized your thoughts about how to accommodate change.
That’s because Amazon was clear about what they wanted: a highly educated workforce, a place to build a campus close to downtown (not a suburban greenfield) and an understanding of how their presence would allow the city to transform itself.
By showing Amazon how your community could meet those needs, you undertook a planning exercise. If you’re looking to add 50,000 employees, thinking about where to house them, how to transport them and where they’ll work, that’s very much a future-thinking exercise, which, at its heart, is what planning and urban design is all about.
Now that you have everything catalogued — and a keener sense of your assets — here’s what you can do next:
- Keep this civic-scaled conversation going. You discovered who you are, what you care about and what you can offer the world in the 21st century. Now, expand it so that everyone is included.
- Pitch all kinds of businesses. It doesn’t have to be just Amazon. Most companies are looking for the same things, like a highly educated workforce or available development sites. Who are Amazon’s competitors? How can you out-Amazon Amazon? What existing, home-grown industries can you strengthen and build upon?
- Fill in and connect the assets you’ve identified. You’ve done something akin to the census, counting your population, education levels, available land area, infrastructure capacity and more. Now find ways to bring those things together.
- Do something stupendous. Build rapid transit, solve housing problems, clean up an environmentally degraded site. Remember that for all its power, cyberspace it is not a space in itself, it is merely a means to support convening. So make spaces: streets, outdoor cafes, a ballpark, a town hall, a freedom trail. Make a spectacle: a concert, a religious revival, a party, a parade.
The power of planning, fundamentally, is to change the way a community thinks about itself. What I find so appealing about the process is its optimism: there’s tremendous community pride in it, and real power, too. You have quantified the possibilities for your future — now you just need to make them a reality.
Yours in planning,
Banner image courtesy of Unsplash.Comment Follow nbbX