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Chicago officially announces 10-site bid for Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ headquarters

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From the Loop to the suburbs, Chicago’s official bid offers the tech giant a wide variety of options

City of Chicago
City of Chicago

Despite early secrecy during the month-long selection and submission process, city and state officials have revealed their list of the ten metropolitan area sites that comprise Chicago’s formal bid for Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ second North American headquarters deal. Described by many as the biggest tech prize in recent memory, the deal is said to be worth up to $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs.

In addition to these ten Amazon-friendly locations, the bid is also said to include an incentive package from local, county, and state governments. According to a report from WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, sources say this could amount to $2 billion in tax breaks and associated infrastructure and capital expenditures.

According to Crain’s, local and state officials say they will be offering no further details on Chicagoland’s bid before Amazon decides on a winner. The company is expected to narrow its potential suitors to a short list before making a final decision in early 2018. In the meantime, here’s a look at the ten sites submitted for consideration.

Chicago City Core:

A previous conceptual rendering showing a block-sized supertall tower replacing Chicago’s post modern Thompson Center.

City Center Campus

Located in the heart of Chicago’s Central Business District (CBD), the so-called ‘City Center Campus’ would allow Amazon to fully integrate into the Loop. Offering connections to Chicago’s below-ground pedway system and the Blue Line train to O’Hare, the plan includes the redevelopment of the State of Illinois-owned James R. Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph Street. The sale of the Helmut Jahn-designed building has been a goal of Governor Bruce Rauner since 2015. Earlier this year, Rauner and other state Republicans released a conceptual rendering for the site showing a 1,700-foot supertall tower by AS+GG.

A rendering showing a vertical expansion of Union Station’s headhouse and three new high-rise towers.
Riverside Investment & Development

The Downtown Gateway District

A second downtown option for Amazon features a mix of move-in ready buildings, renovation opportunities, and a chance to build from scratch. Dubbed the ‘Downtown Gateway District,’ this location provides existing office space in the remodeled Willis Tower, 2.5 million square feet in Chicago’s Old Post Office, and 3.1 million square feet of possible commercial and residential space in three new buildings to be built above Amtrak-controlled real estate around Union Station. Needless to say, the location offers unparalleled access to regional commuter transit.

Near Downtown Innovation Districts:

Solomon Cordwell Buenz

The River District

Located just northwest of Chicago’s CBD is the 37-acre ‘River District’ site. Slated for waterfront property controlled by Tribune Media, the River West site would provide Amazon with a carte blanche opportunity to essentially build a city within a city. Early plans for the site come from architects Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Goettsch Partners and call for in excess of 10 million square feet of mixed-use space. The site is within walking distance of multiple CTA stops and could include a future shuttle or transitway connecting to regional rail hubs.

Lincoln Yards would straddle both sides of Chicago’s rapidly-changing North Branch Corridor.
City of Chicago

Lincoln Yards

North of The River District and Goose Island is another opportunity for Amazon to plant its roots along the river’s North Branch. Known as ‘Lincoln Yards’ the Sterling Bay proposal includes a number of previously industrial properties such as the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant and the city’s former Department of Fleet and Facility Management. While the site is currently somewhat of a bottleneck for vehicular traffic, a number of transportation improvements are on the table including an extension of the popular 606 bike and pedestrian trail.

The 78 will feature a half-mile riverwalk with buildings setback at least 100 feet from water’s edge.
Rendering by ICON, master planning by SOM, architectural contributions from 3XN.

The 78

A major riverfront development opportunity also exists on the South Branch at a 62-acre parcel of vacant land controlled by developer Related Midwest. Anticipated to increase Chicago’s 77 recognized neighborhood areas by one, ‘The 78’ redevelopment plan will include a mix of residential, commercial, academic, civic, cultural, and recreational spaces master planned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A newly announced University of Illinois-led research facility known as the Discovery Partners Institute will help establish the site as a major public-private research hub.

A conceptual rendering of the Burnham Lakefront development.

Burnham Lakefront

This massive redevelopment opportunity for the former Michael Reese Hospital in the Bronzville neighborhood on Chicago’s Near South Side would provide Amazon with Lake Michigan views as well as to room grow. Controlled by a team consisting of Draper & Kramer, Farpoint Development, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, McLaurin Development Partners, and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, the Burham Lakefront plan calls for 12 million square feet of mixed-use space.

A Fulton Market HQ2 would require Amazon to develop a higher number of smaller lots rather than a single, master-planned parcel.
City of Chicago

Fulton Market District

A favorite among tech giants such as Google and small startups alike, this trendy corner of Chicago’s West Loop is already experiencing an unprecedented influx of new apartment proposals, boutique hotels, and chef-driven restaurants. McDonald's upcoming move to its new Fulton Market world headquarters in 2018 is only expected to turbocharge the transformation. While land prices in the area are climbing, there are still a number of development sites available.

A rendering of what HQ2 at the Illinois Medical District could look like.
City of Chicago

The Illinois Medical District

Featuring no shortage of unused or underutilized land, the Illinois Medical District (IMD) would give Amazon access to numerous research colleges and cutting edge medical facilities. Well-served by transit and located relatively close to Chicago’s Central Business District, the area around the IMD has recently started to see more mixed-use development and investment.

Suburan Sites:

Officials envision Amazon anchoring a new mixed-use neighborhood in suburban Schaumburg.
City of Chicago


Located just 17 minutes west of O’Hare, Schaumburg offers land acquisition costs lower than downtown Chicago but also lacks some of the density and walkability of a true urban campus. Schaumburg’s bid for Amazon would see a new mixed-use neighborhood grow-up around HQ2 on a 265-acre site that once served as Motorola’s global headquarters. Zurich’s recently completed Schaumburg HQ shows that leading companies are still betting on Chicago’s burbs.

McDonald’s Oak Brook digs.
City of Chicago

Oak Brook

With McDonald’s headed to Chicago’s Fulton Market, the fast food giant’s former Oak Brook location is up for grabs. Stretching over 100 acres, the campus includes offices, a training center, Hyatt hotel, and two lakes.