The pullback, combined with the persistence of employees working remotely, has hobbled cities that relied on tech workers to frequent cafes, doggy day cares, and transit.
Last month, Mr. Jassy wrote in a letter to employees that most corporate staff would be expected to return to the office three days a week starting on May 1. It caused grumbling from many Amazon workers, but cheering from city officials in Seattle and Bellevue.
“Events really did change,” said Richard Florida, a professor at the University of Toronto who has studied urban development and tech for more than two decades. “We did have a pandemic, remote work became a thing. But I think this is yet another cautionary tale, perhaps the ultimate cautionary tale, of not betting a whole community on a company.”
The slowdown at Amazon’s HQ2 is perhaps the most indicative of how quickly the tides have changed from its ambitions of just a few years ago. Amazon kicked off an international frenzy in 2017 when it announced its search for a second headquarters, saying it wanted to find a place where it could expand to house 50,000 employees. Hundreds of cities and towns around North America threw themselves at Amazon, hoping to attract what were seen as well-paid jobs of the future.
But long-shot hopes were dashed in late 2018, when Amazon announced that it would be split the second headquarters equally between Queens and Arlington, Va., two metro areas where Amazon already had more employees than anywhere else outside of Seattle and the Bay Area.
At the time, the company said that the developments would require $5 billion in construction and other investments. Amazon was offered more than $2 billion in tax incentives from New York and Virginia.
The tax breaks, and concerns over gentrification, caused fierce community, union and political pushback over the campus in Long Island City, and in early 2019, Amazon canceled its plans for the Queens campus.