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Unsuccessful Amazon bid reveals a downtown transformation that never was

Mike Desmond
Cover of Buffalo-Rochester proposal for Amazon HQ2.

Downtown Buffalo would have been a very different place if it had been designated as the site of Amazon's second headquarters. That was the message Wednesday as officials unveiled more details of the joint Buffalo-Rochester proposal to secure the tech giant's HQ2.

The joint proposal, put together by local economic development officials here and in Rochester using state money, would have created an Amazon campus of new high rises built around the Seneca One complex and over to the Buffalo River. In Rochester, the Xerox Tower and the Kodak Tower Commons would have been the anchors.

"If Amazon had chosen us and our proposal went forward, it would have transformed downtown Buffalo and the entire region," said Invest Buffalo Niagara's Alan Rosenhoch. "An influx of 50,000 jobs in high-tech sector would have been game-changing, to say the least."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Invest Buffalo Niagara played a key role in preparing the proposal. Rosenhoch said re-designing a section of the city would have been something new, even for trained city planners on the staff.
"Envisioning a massive downtown campus like this is not something we have been asked to do before," he said. "We are in a business that is client-driven, so we get out and in front and market our region to companies and site selection consultants proactively, but ultimately that's for them to understand our assets."

Although Buffalo missed the mark, Rosenhoch said the effort was worth it.

"This was an interesting urban planning exercise," he said. "Again, I can't say enough for the collaborative nature of our economic development delivery system, from municipal governments to other economic development agencies, all chipping in, universities, colleges saying, 'How can I help? What information can I provide?'"

The offer to Amazon included around a $500 million in known local incentives and even more in so-far unknown state incentives. Amazon has not yet picked the site of its HQ2, but Toronto and New York City remain among the finalists still in the hunt.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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