LEAGUE CITY

A shovel-ready, 124-acre greenfield on Clear Lake in League City could have been the site of Amazon’s second headquarters.

But the fast-growing city didn’t make Amazon’s cut because it lacked public transportation the company wanted for the 50,000 employees who would work there, officials said.

The Seattle-based online retail company’s proposed second headquarters has some specific requirements, and League City met many of those, Amazon said. It was near Houston, close to highways and airports and had available land.

League City even made it to Amazon’s second round, Economic Development Director Scott Livingston said.

But Amazon eliminated League City from the competition because it lacks public transportation, officials said.

“Based upon discussions with our regional partners at the Greater Houston Partnership, staff understands that League City was eliminated from the competition in Round 2 primarily because of our lack of public transportation, namely light/commuter rail,” Livingston said.

Still, some League City leaders have suggested that having universal access to internet and satellite data could have helped the odds of nabbing the coveted second headquarters. The Greater Houston Partnership, the organization that helped area cities prepare applications to Amazon, agreed.

“While there has been growing momentum in the innovation space over the last couple of years, this is a clear indication that we need to accelerate our work on our region’s digital economy, particularly in the area of developing talent,” partnership President Bob Harvey said.

On Thursday, Amazon announced 20 metropolitan areas it chose to move to the next phase of the selection process, including Austin and Dallas.

Amazon reviewed 238 proposals from across the United States, Canada and Mexico to host the company’s second headquarters in North America, the company stated.

Amazon asked each region to coordinate responses of only the best sites in each metropolitan region, Livingston said.

The Greater Houston Partnership coordinated the response among the competing communities in the Greater Houston area, Livingston said.

League City sent its initial application Sept 19. Amazon invited the city to the next round, asking for more information. The city sent that package Oct. 19.

SPURRED TALK

“This project will be transformative to the region and our economy,” Bob Pertierra, chief economic development officer with the Greater Houston Partnership wrote in a Sept. 14 email to area cities pitching sites.

After Amazon announced its top 20 list, the partnership sent a statement to the area communities that made pitches.

“While Houston is the number one market in the country for STEM workers, we need to bolster our pipeline of digital tech talent that is relevant to tomorrow’s digital economy,” Harvey said. “We also need to move forward with developing the Innovation Corridor and digital startup community, as well as accelerate the idea of a Houston Data Science Institute.”

The pitch to Amazon spurred an ongoing conversation among business leaders about what it takes to attract tech businesses, League City Regional Chamber of Commerce President Steve Paterson said.

Besides public transportation, the city also needs to look at becoming a smart city with universal access to digital capabilities from the internet to GPS systems, Paterson said.

A chamber task force that has met for a year to make recommendations to the city’s master plan backs the idea of League City creating a digital spine.

A pipeline carrying digital cable, fiber optics and other high-speed technology conduits would make League City more attractive to high-tech companies, officials said.

Besides attracting high-tech businesses, a smart city would appeal to new residents, Paterson said. Business leaders want to see the coming Grand Parkway area in undeveloped southwest League City wired for success as new homes and new businesses emerge.

OFF FM 270

The 124-acre site League City proposed to Amazon has multiple owners, according to the city’s application. FM 270 borders the west side of the site, just south of the Dr. Ned and Fay Dudney Nature Center. The site would have stretched from FM 270 to Davis Road, according to the city’s application.

The partnership reviewed each of the proposed sites and selected the best sites to move forward. The best sites met all of Amazon’s site criteria, including either an existing building of at least 500,000 square feet or a greenfield site of about 100 acres with utilities in place, according to the partnership.

The ideal site would be 30 miles from Houston with proximity to major highways and within a 45-minute drive to a major international airport, the partnership said.

It also needed access to mass transit at the site, something League City did not have.

“Please note: If your site does not have mass transit, please begin to consider ways to address it,” the instructions stated.

Mass transit has been unpopular among many in League City, but city leaders continue to examine options.

“I believe as the county evolves, there needs to be an attempt to develop a private mass transit solution,” Paterson said.

“As the technology evolves, this will be a more affordable and profitable solution that will attract private investment. This will be possible with the onset of autonomous energy efficient transportation.”

League City Mayor Pat Hallisey has always been amazed that the Interstate 45 and state Highway 3 corridor between Galveston and Houston never got serious consideration for a commuter rail line, he said.

“That, coupled with strategically placed park and ride locations with direct access to rail and bus lines, would go a long way to address mass transit concerns that Amazon or other corporations would have,” Hallisey said.

“Why Texans are so damn afraid of rail is beyond me,” he said.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

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(12) comments

Dwight Burns

Galveston County has a mass transportation problem. Until that problem is addressed and solved, our County will continue to lose potential large businesses to other areas of the Country that have addressed this issue.

Jim Casey

I can't imagine a company the size of Amazon putting a large facility in Galveston County, when it has the entire U.S. to choose from.

Lack of public transportation is the least of the problems.

The Clear Lake area is subject to hurricane evacuations and flooding. The proposed site has Main Street (518) for egress to the south and west. That road has some of the worst traffic in the county.

Then there's the looming problem of water supply. God or nature simply is not going to put more water in the rivers because the population grows.

David Schuler

Mass transit from where, to where? Urban areas with centralized population centers can benefit from light rail; Houston et al has a distributed population base and distributed centers of opportunity with almost none of the combinations creating sufficient ridership to warrant the BILLIONS it takes to put in 'light rail' (a misleading term if there ever was one). I'm all for mass transit when it makes economic sense.
My prediction is that smart electric cars + UBER / Lyft / etc will - over the next 20 years - create a distributed mass transit system that is far more flexible and more efficient than any rail system could ever be.
But in this particular case, this is just Amazon's urbanized / idealized / 'gotta-have-mass-transit-at-any-cost' Left-Coast leaning way of saying, 'you don't fit our model....".

Jim Casey

A rail line along route 3 could handle a lot of commuters between Dickinson and central/west side Houston, which is where the jobs worth commuting to are. The problem—aside from startup cost—is going between home, the train, and the workplace. For most people, it's too far to walk or ride a bike, and too decentralized for buses. As much as I would like to avoid driving, I'm not willing to mess with a three-leg trip like that.

Anyway, it's not there now, not planned, and would be fiercely opposed on many levels.

Randy Chapman

League City needs to address it's horrendous traffic issues anyway it can, including possibly a rail system to Houston. If something is not done soon, all of League City, Friendswood, and Kemah wlook like the Gulf Freeway at 5PM. WRT to current mass transit, like another poster said, Bezos is just a Liberal and that's that.

Mark and Janet Lardas

Anyone who thought Amazon would relocate anywhere in Texas was dreaming. The new site will be somewhere in the Washington D. C. Area. It pretty much has to be.

Amazon, like Google and Facebook, is already experiencing calls for antitrust action against them. These calls will grow along with Amazon's market share.

Where best to beat back these attempts? D.C. Having a headquarters in the D.C. Metro area allows Amazon to have its executives on hand and to socialize with the D.C. power brokers. Bezos already lives there. All this headquarters search stuff is theater, intended to squeeze the best possible deal out of one of the three D.C. sites "in contention."

Jean Casanave

I agree with all the above. LC has, in general, a transportation issue. But don't you think the drainage issues should be dealt with first?

Michelle Aycoth

Drainage is not an issue in League for the 85% of the population that did not flood.
Traffic is an issue for 100% of the population in League City, nobody likes thebeunconvinced.
Andrew Aycoth

Chuck DiFalco

The mass transportation problem in League City is that someone here thinks it's a good thing. I'm not going to subsidize someone's commute to work.

Chuck DiFalco

Although I don't know of anyone more knowledgeable about city governance than Mr. Hallisey, he needs to get a clue on the issue of commuter rail. At grade rail (i.e. along Highway 3) would be a traffic disaster. It would block east-west auto traffic that is already a nightmare. Below grade rail is not an option. Above grade rail would be horrendously expensive, and the vast majority of League City residents who wouldn't use it don't want to subsidize it. And if LC economic development types think that benefitting the few at the expense of the many is a good thing, they are being watched by citizens who are tired of being nickeled and dimed.

Chuck DiFalco

"League City was eliminated from the competition in Round 2 primarily because of ... light/commuter rail" So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that spread-out Houston metro doesn't have a systemic rail system. So why did Amazon yank League City around? To make a statement about their urban planning agenda? Why doesn't Amazon just stick to online retail sales?

PD Hyatt

Until the Galveston Houston area wakes up to the issue of water major companies like Amazon will not be coming to town.... We are seeing drinking water being a issue as more and more people pour into this area, and then you have the other issue of to much water, because the cities have not planned very well on the issue of getting water out of our area when the rains come down.... Houston and some other areas go down when we have a small to medium size rain. Then when we have a major rain storm like Harvey the entire area went down.... Until the area planners start making these new subdivision build massive retention ponds to hold these waters that those areas used to hold before neighborhoods were built and get these bayous where they are draining all of these new areas to cleaned out so that they can hold this water our area will continue to flood....
As for mass transit, well if that was going to work in our area it would already be built, but to many like having their own cars to come and go as they see fit as that is the way that it should be, after all this is America and not Europe where the sheeple line up as they are told to....

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