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Amazon seeks $4.5M state grant for Boxwood LogistiCenter

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The Dermody-led project team displayed this rendering for the future Boxwood facility, now said to be eyed by Amazon, at a November county meeting. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DERMODY

NEWPORT – Amazon, the e-commerce retail giant, is seeking a $4.5 million grant from the state to move into a new multistory distribution center to be built at the former General Motors Boxwood plant.

The request filed Feb. 17 with the Delaware Economic Development Authority’s Council of Development Finance said that Amazon needed the taxpayer-supplied Strategic Fund monies to “establish its operations in Wilmington, Delaware.” It was not listed on the CDF’s initial agenda for the Feb. 24 meeting released Feb. 10.

The company already employs more than 2,500 people at distribution centers in New Castle and Middletown, as well as a truck yard in the state, but it is now seeking to occupy a next-generation facility being built by Nevada-based developer Dermody Properties on the old automotive manufacturing plant site.

While the exact location of the site isn’t disclosed in the CDF request, the involvement of Amazon at the Dermody project has been a not-so-secret detail for months. On Wednesday, a Philadelphia Inquirer report confirmed the location at Boxwood as well, citing unnamed sources.

Dermody and the project’s engineering firm, Langan, and architect, Ford & Associates, have prior experience building distribution centers for Amazon.

When reached Wednesday about the CDF application, Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said the company has “a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap and are not yet commenting on any specific operations plans in Wilmington. Stay tuned.”

As first detailed by Delaware Business Times, the so-called LogistiCenter at I-95 is to be five-stories tall with 3.8 million square feet of space, featuring 69 loading docks, nearly 2,000 parking space and nearly 1,000 spaces for tractor-trailers.

The plan would make the LogistiCenter project perhaps the American distribution center with the most floors, as existing or announced projects have typically topped out at four floors. At 3.8 million square feet, it would also be among the largest multistory projects built.

It’s a departure from the plan first announced by Harvey Hanna & Associates, which purchased the 142-acre property in 2017 before selling about 88 acres to Dermody for about $21.6 million in November. Harvey Hanna had proposed building two single-story buildings roughly 1.1 million square feet and 1.3 million square feet each, along with secondary 350,000- and 310,000-square-foot buildings.

The single, multistory building concept is where Amazon is heading for its distribution centers now, with nearly identical facilities being built near Milwaukee and Memphis in the past year. That construction allows Amazon to move into denser urban markets where vacant land is scarce. Notably, the Boxwood project is off Del. 141 and within miles of Interstate 95, the New Castle Airport and the Port of Wilmington.

In an unusual public meeting for a project like the LogistiCenter at I-95, a project team noted in November that the facility anticipated employing more than 1,000 people. They also showed a video of a 3D rendering of the facility, describing how five freight elevators and a dozen staircases will move product and personnel up and down the five floors.

To date, the site has been razed and graded, but construction has not yet started.

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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