Amazon pays more than $27 million for land in Woodburn, plans massive fulfillment center
Amazon, the second largest private company in the world behind only Walmart, has built a network of 175 fulfillment centers around the world. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images
Updated 7:37 PM; 06/24/2021 6:13 PM
By Jeff Manning | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Internet juggernaut Amazon is planning one of the largest buildings in Oregon history — a five-story, 3.84-million-square-foot fulfillment center — just west of Interstate 5 in the city of Woodburn.
The retail giant earlier this week paid $27 million to three different sellers for the acreage that could host the new building. Jerry Melby, assistant county clerk at Marion County, said his office recorded the three transactions on Thursday. He confirmed the purchase price and that Amazon Services Inc. was the buyer
The operation could employ about 1,874 people, according to planning documents.
Amazon’s plan has been cloaked in secrecy. City documents referred to a potential big development west of the freeway only as “Project Basie.” Amazon was never named.
Tommy Moore, a spokesman for Woodburn, declined to offer any details. “The city is not ready to give a statement right now,” he said.
Amazon bought the bulk of its Woodburn land from Specht Woodburn LLC, a company formed by prominent local developer Greg Specht. Amazon paid $23.3 million for the Specht parcel. He declined to comment.
Amazon thrived during the pandemic, delivering food and just about everything else to a nation of locked-down consumers. It is the second largest private company in the world, with more than a million employees. Sales in the first quarter of this year alone exceeded $108 billion.
But the company has also come under withering criticism for low pay and harsh working conditions. Just this week, two large delivery companies serving the Portland area notified drivers they will stop working with Amazon, their only client. In an email to drivers, one of the contractors cited “unsafe” working conditions and a deteriorating relationship with the retail giant.
Between Intel’s sprawling computer chip factories, Nike’s headquarters expansion and several data centers, Oregon has hosted plenty of enormous construction projects of late. At 3.84 million square feet, the Woodburn fulfillment center ranks near the top. The building will be 105-feet tall — double the maximum permissible under the city’s current zoning rules, an exception approved by the city — with floor area equivalent to 66 football fields.
Amazon’s growth has led to a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for warehouse space, where its employees pick from tens of millions of stored items, pack them and ship them to customers. The company says it operates more than 175 fulfillment centers worldwide, and the Woodburn facility will be its fourth major logistics center in the area.
It’s unclear how much the Woodburn project will cost to build. Amazon’s facility in Troutdale cost $180 million. The Woodburn project is more than four times the size of the 855,000 square-foot Troutdale warehouse.
Amazon is proposing several traffic changes to accommodate the expected increase in truck and car volume in the vicinity. Most notably, it wants to overhaul the southbound I-5 exit ramp.
In its project document filed with the city, Amazon pledged to work with the Oregon Department of Transportation “to identify an acceptable modification to the southbound I-5 offramp to maximize the amount of southbound right-turn lane storage and lengthen the overall offramp.”
Though it is the second largest private company in the world, Amazon may qualify for Oregon property tax breaks if it goes ahead with the Woodburn project. Some companies inside the Woodburn-Gervais Enterprise Zone qualify for three to five years of property tax abatements.
Amazon officials did not return messages.
— Jeff Manning