Summit Daily editorial: Brace yourself for the Amazon overflow
Earlier this month, the New York Times announced it had crunched the numbers and settled on the best city to host Amazon’s new mega-campus. Beating out Portland, Washington D.C., Boston and other hip cities, Denver rose to the top of the list.
The reporters cited the city’s (relative) affordability, history of tech innovation, and — wait for it — the abundance of microbreweries and outdoor recreation as reasons why the online retail giant should swipe right on the Mile High City.
An Amazon mothership landing could be enormous economic boon for Denver, one that entails a $5 billion investment, 8 million square feet of office space and 50,000 new jobs over the next two decades. And these aren’t just warehouse jobs, either. Executives, software engineers, attorneys, accountants and the salaries to match would comprise a large number of these new employment opportunities.
To be sure, tech company veterans already living on the Front Range could fill many of those positions. However, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which a new corporate Vatican City at the edge of the Colorado Rockies won’t greatly accelerate the record-breaking population growth Denver is already seeing.
Why this might be of serious concern to Summit County residents is obvious: We’ve already become a kind of mountainous suburb to the Denver metro area over the last decade — with all of the economic and social challenges that presents. Adding rocket fuel to that trend will have enormous and unforeseen consequences for the region.
We’ll still be Summit County — but only more so: More visitors, more traffic, more economic inequality, skyrocketing home values and a new army of tech industry swells looking to buy a weekend getaway they can also use as a short-term-lease side hustle. Are we really ready for the Amazon invasion?
There is perhaps one hitch to this scenario. One of Amazon’s chief priorities in its search for a host city is mass transit. Atlanta, Miami, Dallas and Austin were stricken from the New York Times’ candidate list due to their lack of adequate transportation infrastructure. Somehow, Denver squeaked through that round, despite the state’s well-documented inability to fix its crumbling roads and bridges.
All of those outdoor recreation opportunities — and some of those coveted microbreweries — that make Denver such an attractive candidate for Amazon are accessible only through that great leveler of humanity — the Interstate 70 mountain corridor.
No matter how wealthy you are, if you want to get into the mountains, you’re going to have to sit in traffic. It’s as inevitable as death and the gas tax.
However, another recent development has us thinking that maybe that won’t always be the case. Colorado Department of Transportation officials announced this week that the state was named one of 10 finalists for a Hyperloop One network.
The Colorado proposal calls for a 360-mile, high-speed tunnel system that connects Pueblo with Cheyenne, Wyoming, as well as Denver with mountain towns like Golden, Silverthorne and Vail. Using technology not unlike an air hockey table, Hyperloop One promises to hurl passengers at 700 mph toward their destination, which means a 9-minute trip from Denver to Vail.
The project, for now, is a literal pipe dream that would cost untold billions. And, despite a hearty endorsement from the Times, Amazon has yet to announce its finalist for a new campus. But just imagine what a frictionless means of travel, combined with a ballooning pockets of wealth in Denver, will bring to our mountain community. Along with a big boost to our tourism economy will come environmental and social impacts the likes of which we haven’t seen. If you think Summit’s overrun now, just wait till you hear the buzzing of Amazon delivery drones.
The Summit Daily editorial board includes publisher Meg Boyer, editor Ben Trollinger, reporter Kevin Fixler and two community members, Jen Schenk and Jonathon Knopf.
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