The city of Columbus has stitched together property in Franklinton, Scioto Peninsula, around the Ohio State University campus and Easton in its bid to land one of the biggest economic-development prizes ever: a second headquarters for Amazon.
Hundreds of pages of emails, documents and other records released Dec. 21 by the city in response to a records request from The Columbus Dispatch shows the city also has looked at the Ohio State Fairgrounds and Mount Carmel West hospital, but has ruled out those sites for now.
Amazon, based in Seattle, announced in September that it plans to build a second headquarters. It asked any metro area with a population of more than 1 million to make the company an offer.
The announcement triggered a flurry of activity among cities in the U.S. and Canada, including Columbus.
Other potential sites where Amazon could locate at least some of its operations were redacted from the documents provided by the city because they are privately owned and have not been identified previously as potential sites, said Steve Schoney, the city's economic-development director.
Schoney said information about Easton was not redacted because it previously had been disclosed, but the city did exclude information that identified the specific location at Easton.
The big challenge is piecing together the land that the internet giant says it would need for the project.
"It's really tough to find 100 acres in an existing urban environment," he said.
In October, the city offered a package of incentives that includes property-tax abatements, income-tax refunds and a transportation plan.
Amazon has said 238 cities in North America have bid for the project. A winning city is expected to be announced in 2018.
The payoff for Columbus, should it succeed, would be enormous: 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment that would transform the city.
The effort has been dubbed Project Ares. In Greek mythology, Ares is the god of war and the father of a tribe of female warriors known as Amazons.
Columbus' bid for the headquarters was submitted to Amazon through Columbus 2020, the region's economic-development arm. Columbus 2020 said Dec. 22 it had no update to provide on the status of the project or the city's bid.
Schoney said the city owns 20 acres on Scioto Peninsula. That site and the others would make up a portfolio of property that could be developed over time by Amazon.
The city envisions some combinations of the sites that could be used for the project.
"A lot of stakeholders have to get involved. We don't control the land," he said.
The city had multiple people in the community offer to lend them a hand, expertise or even real estate for the project.
Mark Wagenbrenner of Wagenbrenner Development told city officials in an email that with the peninsula site, land along the Scioto River and its Grandview Crossing property in Grandview Heights, that he "can't imagine that many cities who have that much land ready to go this close to the city. We check all the other boxes."
Wagenbrenner declined to comment for this story.
Nationwide Realty, another major developer that talked to the city about the Amazon project, did not respond to a request for comment.
Among the other activities the city undertook was hiring consulting firm Ernst & Young. The company agreed to complete a report for the city on its "relative strengths as a city/metro area when bidding for the proposed Amazon headquarters."
Ernst and Young planned to provide the city with information about local labor, educational attainment, access to flights to Seattle and international destinations, real-estate costs, tax rates and utility rates. The company also proposed to model incentives for the headquarters and show what sort of return on investment the region may receive if selected.
The report was not in the release of documents from the city.