If you've visited Seattle in the last decade, then there's definitely one thing you haven't missed, and it's not the gloomy, rainy weather the Pacific Northwest city has garnered a reputation for. Rather, it's its Amazonia neighborhood -- a miniature microcosm of Amazon workers, buildings, and everything right in the heart of the city.
Now that the massive eCommerce company and online retailer is looking for a new home for their second headquarters base, Seattle may actually serve as a realistic image of what Amazon's HQ2 environs will look like. Much like the Olympics, people are vying for the chance to host HQ2 and the billions of dollars of investment that will accompany the company's implantation.
And why not? As Amazon explains,
"Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon's second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs -- it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon's direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community."
But let me warn you, the Amazonia neighborhood has become the kind of company town that few us have witnessed in our lifetime.
Before the tech boom in the '90s, Amazon's current Seattle home -- the South Lake Union neighborhood -- was much like every other recently gentrified area: a tangle of empty industrial buildings, warehouses, and parking lots. Now, however, Amazon has filled the space to max capacity.
The company occupies a staggering 8.1 million square feet of office space in Seattle's Downtown alone; 33 Amazon buildings dot the area, and two massive towers make up the crux of Amazon's spread. In fact, the single company owns about 20 percent of the city's prime real estate. That's more than any other major employer in any major U.S. city.
And its growth shows no sign of stopping either. Currently, Amazon is on its way to erecting its third and fourth towers, somehow making its presence even more prevalent than before.
Walking around the Amazon-ruled neighborhood in Seattle, it's hard to imagine that Amazon doesn't control everything. Almost every person you see is, without fail, an Amazon employee -- their telltale blue badge gives it away. Amazon security guards stand seemingly in front of almost every Amazon building, according to this Business Insider account. They also notice everyone around them, preventing people from taking pictures or video if they feel they have sufficient reason to.
At least in part due to Amazon's presence in the city, Seattle has transformed from one of the most affordable, vibrant cities on the West Coast to one of the least. And virtually every business in it has to cater to the one dominant company to stay alive: Amazon.
So, in case you are hoping that Amazon brings its shiny, new HQ2 to your city, be sure to consider all the effects -- good and bad alike -- before being disappointed that yours wasn't chosen.