PHILADELPHIA—Convinced they will win the highly competitive contest to host the e-commerce giant’s new offices, optimistic local officials have preemptively razed Philadelphia’s entire Center City district to make room for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, sources said Thursday.
According to the mayor’s office, the decision to completely level the downtown region was reached as city leaders became increasingly confident that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would eventually come to realize Philadelphia was the best of the 238 localities across the United States, Mexico, and Canada bidding to become the online retailer’s new center of operations. Over the past few weeks, city employees have reportedly worked around the clock to relocate the area’s more than 57,000 residents, while demolition crews have knocked down thousands of homes, businesses, and cultural sites.
“After taking a look at the competition and figuring we probably have this thing in the bag, we just went ahead and tore down Center City so Amazon can move right in,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, noting that destroying Philadelphia’s central business district was “an easy call” and that he was proud of the city’s campaign to woo the company with promotional videos, full-page newspaper ads, and endorsements from state politicians and local celebrities. “We look forward to all the jobs and economic benefits that will be coming our way once Amazon decides to call what used to be Center City home.”
“Between Philadelphia’s great transit system, its reasonable cost of living, and the fact that there are now two square miles of completely open space in the heart of the city, I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t want to come here,” he added.
Kenney showed reporters an interactive mockup of what Amazon’s campus might look like, with new roads crisscrossing the former Rittenhouse Square to service numerous office towers. He said it would be hard for the company to turn down a bid that would allow it to construct its own modern, business-friendly environment on the vacated sites of more than a dozen historic neighborhoods, including Penn’s Landing, Logan Square, and Society Hill.
The mayor went on to observe that Amazon would have a unique opportunity to put its own mark on the city now that the Inquirer Building, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, and Love Park have all been bulldozed.
“It was definitely bittersweet saying goodbye to the Liberty Bell before our controlled demolition of Independence Hall, but it’s important we encourage businesses to invest in the city,” said Kenney, adding that his office was also evicting 100,000 Philadelphia residents living outside of Center City in order to give relocating Amazon employees access to homes and schools in the most desirable neighborhoods. “Philadelphians should rest assured, however, that we will work to preserve access to our beloved city’s historic legacy. We may even use revenue from the expanded tax base Amazon will provide to help build a high-speed rail service running to the area 30 miles south of town where all our art museums and hospitals are now located.”
“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Amazon chooses Philadelphia, whether that requires tax incentives, infrastructure upgrades, or filling the Schuylkill River with concrete to create more parking,” he continued. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until it’s all official.”
At press time, Amazon officials announced that Philadelphia had failed to qualify for the next round of bidding.