Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos rejected an offer from the richest real estate developer in the US to pay for HQ2

Looks like Amazon HQ2 isn’t coming to “the largest new city in America” after all.

Looks like Amazon HQ2 isn’t coming to “the largest new city in America” after all. David Ryder/Getty Images

Amazon has narrowed the list of cities vying to become the future site of Amazon HQ2 from 238 down to 20. Donald Bren, the richest real estate developer in the US, wrote a letter in October to Jeff Bezos, offering to finance the entire $5 billion project. Bren hoped to convince Bezos to make Irvine, California the home of HQ2, but it was notably absent from the list of 20 cities still in the running.

The fight for Amazon’s HQ2 has turned a corner.

On Thursday, Amazon announced the 20 cities still in the running to become for HQ2 — narrowed down from 238 cities that submitted proposals last year.

Atlanta, Miami, Nashville, and Toronto are among the places that made the cut. Los Angeles is the only city in California on the short list.

Notably absent from the list is Irvine, California, home of the richest real estate developer in the US: Donald Bren. Back in October, the Southern California city took desperate measures to draw Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ attention.

Donald Bren, the multi-billionaire owner of the Irvine Company, wrote a letter to Bezos on behalf of his company and in companion with the city of Irvine.

In it, he offered to finance the entirety of HQ2 — which Amazon projects will cost about $5 billion — if the e-commerce giant picked Irvine. The offer is billed by Bren as “a one-click shopping opportunity” for Amazon.

Bren writes:

“With the Irvine Company proposal, Amazon will not be required to invest capital for land acquisition, buildings, or entitlements to build your new business campus. Our company has the long-term real estate assets, capital resources, and flexibility to deliver all your required workspace with lease durations of Amazon’s choosing.

“In essence, you would have a one-click shopping opportunity and be able to capitalize on our inplace property development rights, thus avoiding potential delays, because Irvine Company has invested more than 60 years master planning 93,000 acres of land, and designing and overseeing the creation of the largest new city in America…Irvine, California.”

Over 250,000 people live in Irvine and it’s often regarded as the epicenter of Orange County, an affluent coastal community sandwiched between San Diego to the South and Los Angeles to the North.

Amazon says its new HQ2 will eventually house 50,000 mostly white-collar workers making an average of over $100,000 a year. That’s currently about the average income for workers in Irvine.

Bren — who’s worth a cool $17 billion — is the chairman of the Irvine Co., which owns about one-fifth of the land in Orange County spread across office, retail, and apartment space, as well as golf courses and hotel resorts.

In the letter, Bren positions Irvine as the ideal candidate for Amazon because “Irvine is ranked by various sources as America’s fastest growing, most desirable, best educated, safest, and healthiest large city,” he writes.

More than 900 tech companies, such as Google, Broadcom, Blizzard Entertainment, UBS, and Verizon have offices in Irvine, and Amazon already has a 1,200-person outpost in the city.

Southern California is home to the biggest pool of STEM workers in the US, according to the Irvine Company proposal. The University of California, Irvine, a top-ranked public university located in Orange County, awards 42% of its undergraduate students with STEM degrees annually.

At the end of the letter, Bren makes one final plea to his fellow billionaire: “It’s 74 degrees on this beautiful October day, the sun is out and the surf’s up at our spectacular beaches. Please come join us! The water, like the place, is the perfect temperature.”

Weather — and financial support — were seemingly not enough to draw Bezos’ interest. Perhaps not surprising, given the richest man in the world calls Seattle home.

Read Donald Bren’s letter to Jeff Bezos in full below:

Donald Bren Letter to Jeff Bezos by Tanza Loudenback on Scribd

October 12, 2017Mr. Jeffrey BezosAmazon1200 12th Avenue SouthSuite 1200Seattle, WA 98144Dear Mr. Bezos:Irvine Company is pleased to be part of the enthusiastic consortium including the City of Irvine and the County of Orange – with support from the State of California – seeking to attract Amazon’s proposed North American HQ2 to the City of Irvine and Irvine Spectrum.Irvine Company is uniquely qualified to fulfill the financial and real estate requirements for your Amazon HQ2 in a timely manner to meet your schedule. Irvine can offer Amazon more than 8 million square feet of first class office space.If you are ready for immediate occupancy, the first phase is available with the balance of space to be delivered in increments when Amazon needs it.With the Irvine Company proposal, Amazon will not be required to invest capital for land acquisition, buildings, or entitlements to build your new business campus.Our company has the long-term real estate assets, capital resources and flexibility to deliver all your required workspace with lease durations of Amazon’s choosing.In essence, you would have a one-click shopping opportunity and be able to capitalize on our in-place property development rights, thus avoiding potential delays, because Irvine Company has invested more than 60 years master planning 93,000 acres of land, and designing and overseeing the creation of the largest new city in America…Irvine, California.One of our company’s proudest achievements is the master-planned City of Irvine, which includes Irvine Spectrum – in essence a city center within-a-city. It has become Orange County’s “downtown”, an economic powerhouse with more than 900 technology companies, 30 million square feet of office space, 9,000 apartment homes and an extraordinary major lifestyle center, offering a galaxy of shopping, 50 restaurants and entertainment. It also includes a Tom Fazio championship golf course, a long network of bike trails and access to Irvine’s train station.The City of Irvine is known for a great road transportation system, abundant water resources, excellent schools – including magnificent UCI – countless parks and dedicated open spaces, and outdoor recreation.

The ultimate judge of what we’ve done is the marketplace. Businesses and individuals have chosen to live here. And they keep coming. Today, Irvine is ranked by various sources as America’s fastest growing, most desirable, best educated, safest and healthiest large city.I would encourage you to seriously consider Irvine’s proposal as offering the possibility of an HQ2 without compromise: A vibrant city center location, the best climate in North America, the largest pool of STEM professionals and graduate talent, unmatched lifestyle, optimal business terms, and the ability to create your future headquarters exactly when, where and how your business needs require.Irvine’s incomparable combination of attributes is Amazon’s solution for an HQ2 that is fast, flexible and friction-free, and a long-term decision that will reward you and your employees with countless benefits.Sincerely,Donald BrenChairmanP.S., It’s 74 degrees on this beautiful October day, the sun is out and the surf’s up at our spectacular beaches. Please come join us! The water, like the place, is the perfect temperature.

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