Online retail giant Amazon established a footprint from which to distribute consumer goods in Lee County in early 2019, when it agreed to lease 60,000 square feet in the Airport Woods Commerce Center near the Southwest Florida International Airport.
In the more than two years since, though, the Seattle-based company’s business has exploded in Southwest Florida and elsewhere, largely as a result of shifting consumer sentiment and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In a bid to keep pace, Amazon has been expanding its presence.
Last year, it debuted a 120,000-square-foot fulfillment center in the North Port section of Sarasota, and last month, began shipping from a Benderson Development Co. project in East Naples.
The Davis Crossing property, at 8760 Davis Blvd., adds another nearly 105,000 square feet of space to Amazon’s fulfillment portfolio in the region.
Now, however, Amazon is poised for its largest Southwest Florida expansion to date, with a pair of new buildings that collectively will contain more than 557,000 square feet of space — more than 12 acres under roof — according to plans filed with Lee County.
The first building will be developed on a roughly 45-acre parcel within the Alico Distribution Center, on Alico Road. There, Atlanta-based Seefried Industrial Properties, a preferred Amazon developer that has worked extensively with the company nationwide, intends to develop a 278,670-square-foot building for so-called “last mile” distribution.
In the world of e-commerce, last mile facilities are critical near population centers to ensure the fastest delivery of goods to consumers.
A Seefried Industrial affiliate, Seefried PSO Fort Myers LLC, paid $15.12 million for the land. Seefried Industrial officials did not return telephone calls for comment on their pending project.
Fort Myers commercial real estate brokerage firm LSI Cos.’ President Justin Thibaut and agent Alexis North negotiated the transaction with sellers Wayside Industrial Inc. and Alico Family Golf Center LLC. Thibaut declined to comment on what will be developed in the wake of the sale.
Seefried Industrial is expected to construct a building that will rise 45 feet in height on the land, according to plans filed by engineering firm Kimley Horn with Lee County.
Engineering schematics show a building with 78 loading docks, 377 adjacent trailer parking stalls and parking on site for an equal number of automobiles and motorcycles.
But Amazon may have even more ambitious plans in mind.
Just to the north of the Alico Distribution Center property, another Seefried Industrial entity — GPF-Seefried Ft Myers 2021 LLC — appears to working to develop an identically sized building on another 58.4 acres, property and other records indicate.
In April, GPS-Seefried spent $15.24 million to buy the land from Wayside Industrial Inc. and Joel F. Waltzer and related entities, according to Lee County land records.
Although Amazon is not listed on the Lee County building documents — the plans call only for a “proposed distribution facility — Seefried Industrial and Amazon have worked together often along the Gulf Coast.
In Ruskin, Seefried Industrial and USAA Real Estate teamed up in 2012 to jointly develop Amazon’s 1.02 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Hillsborough County.
In May 2019, Massachusetts-based Industrial Logistics Properties Trust bought the project for $123.6 million — one of the largest commercial real estate transactions in the Tampa Bay area of that year — as part of a portfolio deal for 18 properties.
But the duo’s most ambitious development project to date along the Gulf Coast is in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa.
There, Seefried Industrial is constructing a 633,000-square-foot fulfillment center for Amazon on roughly 82 acres.
When completed, the building is slated to rise nearly 90 feet. At that height and through the use of modern mezzanine, conveyor and other technologies, Amazon would be able to expand its storage and shipping capabilities to nearly 2 million square feet.
And while Amazon will likely be the largest e-commerce company with a presence in Southwest Florida, it won’t be alone.
In October 2019, Wayfair LLC committed to lease nearly 50,000 square feet in Meridian Center, a two-building, speculative development from Maryland-based Knott Realty Group.
That 27-acre project also is located just a few miles away from Southwest Florida International Airport.
Additionally, last fall Uline Corp. unveiled plans for a $70 million distribution center in Collier County that would span nearly 1 million square feet.