By Dyana Bagby
Brookhaven is one of numerous cities across the country trying to come up with a sales pitch strong enough to lure the $5 billion new Amazon headquarters dubbed HQ2 to its location. But city officials apparently hit a snag when the owner of Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway, a site they considered prime real estate for the massive development, said it was not interested.
“We are supportive of the city of Brookhaven’s plans to attract a great company like Amazon to the area. However, we have long-term leases with our tenants and plan to redevelop the center at a future date,” said Kristen Moore, senior vice president of marketing for Brixmor, the company that owns Northeast Plaza.
Moore said city officials did approach Brixmor about joining them in putting together a proposal package, but that Brixmor declined.
“We are not interested,” she said.
Gentrification and redevelopment are threatening Buford Highway’s regional attraction as a multicultural corridor, including the displacement of the many immigrants who work and live there. Ongoing debates have led to numerous studies about how to ensure the cultural diversity of Buford Highway is maintained as new development comes in.
Brookhaven resident Marian Liou, founder and executive director of We Love BuHi, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Buford Highway’s cultural diversity, said she is not surprised to hear the city is seeking to pitch the corridor to Amazon.
“Northeast Plaza saying no gives us more time to collectively decide on a shared vision for Buford Highway,” Liou said. “This is an opportunity for everyone who loves Buford Highway, … to consider the effects of a massive redevelopment project on the people and businesses of Buford Highway.”
Amazon also has a reputation for gentrifying communities where it settles. Liou said Amazon revolutionized retail and commerce and perhaps the city can find inspiration in that model for the city “to pioneer with intention how communities of color, or cities with a large population of people of color, can directly and substantively benefit from development and change,” she said. “With or without HQ2.”
Brookhaven city officials declined to comment on their attempts to lure Amazon HQ2. City Councilmember Joe Gebbia, whose district includes Northeast Plaza, also declined comment.
Moore said Brixmor understands the strength and value of the “well-located” property on Buford Highway. The property is located on roughly 41.5 acres with slightly more than 442,000 square feet of office space.
Recently, Northeast Plaza was the location for the Living Walls/We Love BuHi block party and night market as part of their public art campaign to bring awareness to the immigrant communities living and working on Buford Highway.
Amazon posted Sept. 7 a press release to its website stating it was seeking to open Amazon HQ2, leading states across the country, including Georgia, to submit bids by the Oct. 19 deadline. Amazon states it would invest over $5 billion in construction and employ up to 50,000 people.
Phase One of Amazon’s request for proposals calls for enough room for buildings of more than 500,000 square feet by 2019 and up to 8 million square feet beyond 2027, according to Amazon. Access to mass transit is also crucial in the request for proposals. Northeast Plaza is not served directly by a MARTA station, but the No. 39 MARTA bus serving Buford Highway is the most heavily used bus route.
Amazon states in its RFP it will consider undeveloped sites that measure about 100 acres, leading many media reports to float the idea that the former General Motors site in Doraville, now being redeveloped and called Assembly, is a top contender site for Georgia. The RFP states that the sites do not have to be contiguous, but should be in proximity to each other to foster a sense of place and be pedestrian-friendly.”
“We want to encourage states/provinces and communities to think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline,” the RFP states.