Amazon confirms land purchase

Published 10:12 pm Monday, December 16, 2019

It’s nearing Prime time for Suffolk.

Amazon, long believed to be interested in putting a fulfillment center in the Hampton Roads region, has purchased nearly 95 acres of land in Northgate Commerce Park, close to Interstate 664 and just a few miles from the Port of Virginia.

According to city records, Amazon.Com Services Inc. bought 94.6568 acres Dec. 9 at a cost of $4.58 million from Averitt Properties Inc. for property located at 2020 Northgate Commerce Parkway.

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Amazon confirmed the land purchase, but did not state its reasons for acquiring the property.

“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap,” Rachael Lighty, a regional manager for external communications for Amazon Operations, said in a statement. “This land purchase in Suffolk provides us with the flexibility to quickly respond to our future network needs. Stay tuned for more information.”

Amazon has issued similarly-worded statements in response to possible fulfillment centers in other cities.

City spokesman Tim Kelley declined to comment on the land sale.

“Out of respect to the competitive and sensitive nature of the site location process, the Department of Economic Development has developed a policy to release project announcements in a coordinated manner with all party stakeholders,” Kelley said in a statement. “If such an opportunity presents itself on a project in Northgate Commerce Park, an official announcement will occur.”

A July Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance report stated that the alliance, city officials, the Port of Virginia and the Hampton Roads Workforce Council met with representatives of the company that has been looking into a site in Suffolk for a fulfillment center that would employ about 1,000 workers.

The alliance noted that Hampton Roads has been among several different areas in different states being considered for the project, dubbed Project Patriot, with a decision expected sometime this month.

In response to a June public notice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that outlined a proposal from Atlanta-based Seefried Development Services to construct an 820,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center at 2020 Northgate Commerce Parkway in Northgate Commerce Park, Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes did not comment specifically on that proposal.

However, he did note that Northgate is zoned M2 — heavy industrial — “and a distribution or fulfillment center use would be permitted by right.”

A use of that kind, he said, would require site plan and building plan permit approval.

City Council has held two closed sessions to discuss Project Patriot — on Aug. 21 and Nov. 20. The Economic Development Authority board held a closed session on the topic at its Sept. 18 meeting.

Seefried Development Services has built several Amazon fulfillment centers around the United States, and its chief development officer, Jim Condon, listed as the contact for Seefried in the Army Corps’ public notice, has experience on seven different Amazon development projects, including two, 1-million-plus square-foot buildings in the Richmond area.

According to the proposal Seefried filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fulfillment center would be built “to meet increasing e-commerce demand to serve the Hampton Roads region.”

Diagrams submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers show parking for about 1,750 employees and around 200 trucks.

In its 2018 annual report, Amazon stated that it seeks “to expand our fulfillment network to accommodate a greater selection and in-stock inventory levels to meet anticipated shipment volumes from sales of our own products as well as sales by third parties for which we provide the fulfillment services.”