Amazon’s newfound role in civic discussions has been an interesting challenge for the company, which has a tradition of being secretive and ferociously competitive.
Amazon.com gets a lot of credit for Seattle’s crane-filled economic upswing.
That means it also gets blamed for the pain that comes with urban growth, from soaring rents to the traffic mess on Mercer Street, which borders the northern part of Amazon’s South Lake Union turf.
But according to John Schoettler, the head of Amazon’s real estate operation, there’s only so much that the e-commerce giant can do.
Brandi Kruse, a reporter with Q13 Fox News, asked Schoettler during Civic Cocktail — a gathering hosted last Wednesday by Seattle Channel and the Seattle City Club — about Amazon’s “culpability or responsibility” over “how bad Mercer Street has become.”
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“What can you do to fix it?” Kruse asked.
After explaining that Amazon works with the city on such things as signalization projects, Schoettler’s bottom line response was that it’s really the city’s job to make sure Mercer flows properly.
“We really do leave that up to the city officials to be able to take care of a lot of these problems,” he said. Amazon, after all, is “the largest tax payer in the city of Seattle, so we’re paying our fair share.”
The discussion underscores the tension felt by many Seattleites that’s been created by Amazon’s incredible growth. The company has generated an unprecedented level of prosperity, but along with that, traffic and rising costs of living.
Many complain about soaring rents, which Schoettler said was the result of the typical relationship between supply and demand. “It’s the marketplace,” he said, adding that rents might stabilize as more apartments come online. (He pointed to “over 10,000 doors” opening this year within a six block radius of Amazon’s campus.)
Its newfound role in civic discussions has been an interesting challenge for Amazon, a company with a tradition of being secretive and ferociously competitive.
Schoettler, who grew up in Tacoma and is a Washington State University graduate, said that when the company began colonizing South Lake Union it realized how big it had become. It’s now the largest private employer in the city of Seattle, and the largest landowner — and “there are responsibilities that come with that.”
That has included being more active in the local struggle against homelessness; last year it set up a temporary shelter in one of its buildings in collaboration with Mary’s Place. This year it donated space and equipment for five new FareStart eateries, part of a program to train people who have faced barriers to employment.
Information in this article, originally published April 6, 2017 was corrected the same day. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Schoettler was a University of Washington graduate. He actually graduated from Washington State University.