Cleveland Offered Terminal Tower for Amazon Headquarters, Wanted to Expand RTA Rail Lines

Had Cleveland managed to land the second headquarters for Amazon, it might have been a much-needed boost for Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s rail lines.

Cleveland leaders proposed placing the headquarters in Terminal Tower and the adjacent Post Office Plaza and undertaking a major expansion of RTA’s rail lines.

The proposal even offered to give Amazon employees a 25 percent discount on RTA passes.

The revelation came this week after the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency grudgingly released documents sought by a journalist detailing information about the city’s failed Amazon headquarters bid.

NOACA is a transportation planning agency that prepared information used to support Cleveland’s bid for the Amazon headquarters.

The documents show that Cleveland officials had promised to “accelerate” plans to triple RTA’s capacity, including increasing rail lines from 37 miles to 111 miles by 2029.

The RTA pass discounts would have been worth $121 million over 15 years, the documents say, based on the assumption that 50,000 Amazon employees used RTA.

Access to public transportation is one of many factors that Amazon said it would value in reviewing bids for its second headquarters.

NOACA had sought to shield public access to the Amazon bid documents, arguing that they constituted trade secrets which under Ohio’s open records laws are exempt from disclosure.

But Mark Naymik, a columnist for, which like The Plain Dealer newspaper is a unit of Advance Ohio, disputed that and took the agency to court.

A special master appointed by the court reviewed the documents and ruled that the location of the proposed Amazon headquarters site is not secret and should be released.

NOACA said in a statement that it disagreed with the special master’s ruling, but decided not to appeal it because it didn’t want to spend more public money trying to keep the records secret.

The documents that NOACA released did not show all of the Amazon headquarters bid including any public tax incentives that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish offered.

The bid was also prepared in cooperation with private, nonprofit economic-development groups Team NEO and the Greater Cleveland Partnership, both of which also have refused to release documents pertaining to the Amazon bid even though Cleveland failed to make the first cut that Amazon announced last January.

Among those still standing in the quest for HQ2 are Pittsburgh, Columbus and Indianapolis.

Amazon received bids from 238 applicants hungry for the 50,000 well-paying Amazon jobs, $5 billion in construction and 250,000 indirect jobs that a successful bid promises to bring.

Terminal Tower and the Post Office Plaza are both owned by K&D Group of Cleveland.

It purchased the 52-story Terminal Tower in 2016 for a reported $38.5 million.

The iconic building, which opened in 1929, was once Cleveland’s primary intercity rail passenger station, but has not seen a passenger train since Conrail discontinued the Cleveland-Youngstown commuter trains in early January 1977.

However, it is the hub of RTA rail lines, serving as the terminus of the Green, Blue and Waterfront lines, and an intermediate stop on the Red Line. Some Red and Blue line trains operate through to and from the Waterfront line.

At one point during its storied life, Terminal Tower was the headquarters of various railroads owned by the Van Sweringen brothers of Cleveland.

Terminal Tower now hosts a shopping center that includes restaurants and a theater that is known as Tower City Center. It was developed by Forest City Enterprises and opened in 1990 as The Avenue.

Upon buying the structure, K&D Enterprises had spoken about developing some of Terminal Tower into residential space.

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