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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 1 month ago

Amazon continues to expand its footprint locally and statewide

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Amazon continues ever-growing expansion in Florida, with plans for a new Tampa delivery station. It's a multimillion-dollar effort.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

A lot in the shadows of MacDill Airforce Base in Tampa is on its way to becoming the site of the latest delivery station for Amazon, another facility in the global company’s growing spiderweb of facilities across the region and state.

The new Tampa station will sit on 25.5 acres on South Dale Mabry, less than a quarter of a mile from the base’s iconic main gate. Seattle-based Amazon paid $9.5 million for the property owned by Florida Rock and Tank Lines, and plans to build a 123,768-square-foot warehouse on it, according to public records. Amazon officials did not respond to a request for comment about its current or future expansion plans in Florida. It is expected to open next year.

While the company buying property and a building new distribution in Florida seems like a monthly occurrence, as common as alligators found in swimming pools, the location is interesting because it sits at the the end of Dale Mabry and is about seven and a half miles from the nearest interstate. (It is about three miles from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, though.)

But that may not matter to Amazon.

A delivery station's main purpose is to sort packages for the final trip to customers “within a tightly defined urban area,” according to MWPVL International, a Montreal-based global supply and logistics consulting firm that tracks Amazon. These are the packages delivered by the seemingly omnipresent Sprinter vans or, in some cases, courier services.

The stations differ in both size and scope from the company's fulfillment centers, which average between 600,000 square feet and 1 million square feet. The fulfilment centers are what most people think of when envisioning Amazon’s distribution process — massive complexes employing thousands who work next to robots.

The company also utilizes sortation centers, receive centers and specialty centers, according to its website.  

MWPVL says Amazon began building these “last mile” delivery stations in 2013 to help get smaller packages to their final destination. 

Delivery stations are built to service a 45-mile radius, according to MWPVL. Traditionally, these centers have been built in denser, metropolitan areas, but the company is beginning to build more in smaller markets.

Marc Wulfraat, president of MWPVL, says when deciding where to build a delivery stations, the idea is to make sure drivers are able to get to a delivery site quickly and efficiently. Because of Florida's size and population, this means the company has to make sure the state is properly covered to reach those customers within the allotted time-frame.

Not being able to do that means Amazon has to turn to a third-party delivery service, such as the U.S. Post Office or UPS.

On its website, MWPVL, which says “data concerning this network is challenging to track,” lists 41 Amazon delivery stations open or planned for in Florida. The first two Florida stations opened in 2015 — in Miami and St. Petersburg.

Wulfraat says there are currently 18 delivery stations, totaling 2.4 million square feet, that are in the works and not opened across Florida. This includes the one on South Dale Mabry, as well new stations planned for St. Petersburg and Fort Myers. 

Pinellas County property records show that the site for the Amazon station at 6101 45th St. N. in Pinellas Park is zoned heavy industrial and includes three buildings with a total of 120,000 square feet of space. The property sold in May for $12.3 million.

As for the 45-acre Fort Myers property at 16300 Lee Road., off Alico Road, the Business Observer reported in July that it had sold for $15.12 million and was intended for a 278,670-square-foot building.

Along with the delivery stations, across Florida there are 12 fulfilment centers, totaling 7.4 million square feet, being added and three sortation centers totaling 1.07 million square feet. This includes a 633,000-square-foot fulfillment center being built on roughly 82 acres in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa.

"There's a ton of activity going on in Florida. Probably higher than average," Wulfraat says, adding, "I did an analysis and started looking at the population demographics of the Florida market versus the square footage (Amazon) had there and I concluded that there was opportunity to add more space and that the Miami area, particularly, was underserviced."  

Other spots where he believes delivery stations are needed include, Port Charlotte, Spring Hill, Lakeland and Brandon.

Amazon's growth in Florida is also not new.

The company opened a 120,000-square-foot fulfillment center in the North Port section of Sarasota County in 2020 and a delivery station in East Naples this year. and it recently completed a $100 million air freight distribution hub at Lakeland Linder International Airport.

According to the company, research shows it has invested more than $18 billion in the state and created more than 52,000 jobs in Florida.

As for the new site on South Dale Mabry, Kelly Flannery, president and CEO of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, says Amazon's expansion is a welcome an addition to the area, especially because of the jobs.

The one slight concern is traffic on Dale Mabry Highway, which, especially in that area, tends to get heavy as the road narrows to two lanes in each direction. Flannery says "that stretch of road does see high volumes during certain times of the day as individuals make their way to and from MacDill Air Force Base."

"It would be great if all local operations in the immediate area took those hours into consideration," she says.

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