The city of Brookhaven paid an architectural design firm $45,219.14 to create dramatic drawings as part of a bid named “Project Passport” to bring the second Amazon headquarters to Brookhaven two years ago. The drawings show the proposal was much larger than was revealed at the time and included part of the city’s Peachtree Creek Greenway trail.
Rosser International was hired to design cutting-edge campuses to try to lure the new Amazon headquarters to the city. The drawings are still posted to Rosser’s website. However, the company reportedly went out of business in May in a surprise move.
The illustrations show orange, mesh-like material that resembles massive safety fencing seemingly connecting three sprawling campuses together. Drones can be seen flying in some of the drawings. One drawing includes a person parachuting amid drones into a food truck area where a “community banana stand” operates alongside a multiuse trail.
Mayor John Ernst said in 2017 the city approached the owners of Northeast Plaza to include its property as part of a proposal to try to lure the new Amazon headquarters to Brookhaven. But when the owners declined, Ernst said the city backed off.
But the city actually went ahead and included Northeast Plaza over its objections and submitted a proposal much bigger than originally revealed publicly. Documents obtained through an open records request show the city dubbed the Amazon bid package “Project Passport.”
City Manager Christian Sigman said the drawings incorporated the Northeast Plaza site as well as Corporate Square and nearly 20 acres on Briarwood Road that the city purchased for the Greenway.
Illustrations received as part of an open records request, but not posted to Rosser’s website, show views from the major campus at Northeast Plaza and a smaller campus at Corporate Square. The Northeast Plaza campus, or “North Campus,” encompasses property behind the shopping center. This acreage is the Briarwood Road property where the Greenway is now being built.
The city in 2017 tried to use its eminent domain authority to acquire that Briarwood land for the linear park, but a judge ruled against the city, saying it acted in “bad faith.”
The city ended up paying about $2 million for the property where the Greenway is now under construction. The City Council voted last year to build its new $15 million public safety headquarters on the Briarwood property behind Northeast Plaza and overlooking the Greenway.
The city contracted with Rosser for $800,000 to complete the architectural designs for the new public safety building, but was forced to terminate the contract in June when the company abruptly went out of business. Sigman said the city received all of the drawings from Rosser promised as part of the contract.
Amazon set off a competition among 20 cities selected in 2017 as finalists for the new headquarters, or “HQ2,” which was expected to create 50,000 jobs and including a $5 billion investment. Atlanta, one of the finalists, touted transit and its workforce while also offering secret tax incentives to try to lure one of the wealthiest corporations to its soil.
The HQ2 ended up in Virginia. Initially, Amazon said it was splitting up HQ2 further into two campuses in two different cities, but its plan for one of those campus to operate in New York City was driven out by political opposition based on concerns about tax breaks and gentrification.