Talking Points

Talking Points

Boston’s tax incentive for Amazon includes a perk for Cambridge

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images/File 2014

Mayor Marty Walsh wants to play nice with Cambridge, at least when it comes to courting Amazon and its jobs.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency board just approved an incentive package worth millions to spur Amazon to occupy a tower proposed for a Seaport parking lot. Amazon would get $5 million in property tax savings for employing 2,000 people there by 2025, and with an option for an additional $5 million if it adds a similar number in another new building proposed next door. (No, this is not HQ2, but it does increase the likelihood that Amazon will consider Seaport space for HQ2 as long as Boston remains in the running.)

The catch? The incentive language requires that all these jobs be new to the Boston area, and not relocated from other local Amazon sites, such as Cambridge or North Reading.


This marks the first Boston tax incentive to include regional language. Compare it to the breaks that helped draw Vertex to the neighborhood. Vertex agreed to move from Cambridge after then-mayor Tom Menino pledged $12 million in tax savings to the biotech firm. (That number has since been reduced.) During his first campaign for mayor, Walsh said he prefers a more regional approach to economic development, and has since taken steps toward fulfilling that promise.

It’s not clear if Boston will adopt similar provisions in the future. But the regional approach is a smart one -- if you’re a fan of tax breaks. Critics, meanwhile, can point to this: The Walsh administration makes its case for Amazon largely by citing the costs of installing resiliency measures to protect against sea level rise and storm damage. If preparing for climate change merits a tax break, city officials should expect other developers and employers at their door with their hands out.

Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.