Amazon Pursues Windsor Site; Could Bring 300 Jobs
By BRIAN DOWLING and STEVEN GOODE
The Hartford Courant
WINDSOR — Amazon could soon deliver a new distribution center to Windsor, bringing with it hundreds of jobs and a substantial tax boon.
A town official said that the location on Day Hill Road is one of a few finalists, although developers called it the preferred site.
The Windsor center, if Amazon chooses that location, would comprise 1.5 million square feet — larger than Westfarms mall, which has 1.3 million square feet. The footprint would be 1 million square feet with an additional 500,000 square feet on a mezzanine level, according to documents filed with the town's planning department.
Strategically, Amazon.com Inc. has been expanding its network of distribution centers to guarantee quick, even same-day, delivery, which could prove to be an advantage over other online retailers. Windsor's proximity to shipping arteries such as Bradley International Airport and I-91 have attracted other major retailers, such as Walgreens and Dollar Tree, which have similar facilities nearby.
Plans for the huge distribution center — where the online retailer would fill orders for textbooks, stereos, toothpaste and countless other items for lower New England — follow a deal in February that resolved a long-held disagreement about tax collection for online retailers in Connecticut.
Amazon agreed to collect a tax starting Nov. 1 on sales that originate in and are delivered in Connecticut. In the past, the company had not collected sales taxes in states where it did not have a physical presence.
The company also agreed to spend $50 million on a facility in the state along with hiring 300 people, said Kevin B. Sullivan, commissioner of the state Department of Revenue.
"We went back and forth; at first they were not interested, then, out of the blue, quite frankly, when we had almost given up on this, we got a call one day that said, 'You know, we are interested,'" Sullivan said.
For Amazon, the deal erased the potential for the state to recover unpaid taxes on past sales.
It was unclear Friday what locations Amazon was considering other than Windsor. The Seattle-based company did not return requests for comment.
79 Loading Docks
The plans — which call the site "Project Francisco" — describe a large warehouse, 900 parking spaces, 79 loading docks, room to park 231 tractor-trailers, and a new public road called Phoenix Drive that would extend Prospect Hill Road south along the building and could run into Bloomfield.
An estimated 75 to 80 trucks would be coming and going from the building daily, with twice that number during the holiday rush, town officials said.
Jeff Zygler, vice president of development of KTR Capital Partners, which has built other distribution centers for Amazon and is leading the efforts with the Connecticut project, confirmed that Amazon would occupy the distribution facility planned for Day Hill Road in Windsor and that the site is the preferred one.
The property is owned by River Bend Development, a subsidiary of Griffin Land, and is being leased for tobacco farming.
The February agreement with state officials wrapping up the long-standing tax issue followed similar agreements in Massachusetts and New Jersey, states in which Amazon also said it planned to build distribution centers.
The retailer's move to strike deals with states put it in front of federal efforts that would force all online retailers to collect sales tax. The Marketplace Fairness Act passed the U.S. Senate in May and is currently in front of the House of Representatives.
Windsor Mayor Donald S. Trinks said that KTR Capital Partners would own the center and that Amazon would lease it from them. It means 300 full-time jobs, he said, and more from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
On Thursday night, KTR met separately with neighboring homeowners and businesses to talk about the project, Trinks said.
If the center is approved, KTR hopes to start building by October, with the hope of completing it for the Christmas season in 2014, Trinks said.
When asked if the town would offer Amazon tax incentives, Windsor Town Manager Peter Souza said that the company and the town had not yet had any discussions on the topic but that they expect to. Any tax incentives would need town council approval.
The project is scheduled for public hearings before the inland wetlands and watercourses commission and the planning and zoning commission on Sept. 9 and 10, respectively.
Souza estimated the value of the building at $45 million to $50 million, not including personal property. The center would run on two 8- to 10-hour shifts during most of the year, but switch to 24 hours a day to accommodate increased activity during the holiday season.
He said that the town had not yet reviewed the developer's traffic study and could not comment on possible issues related to increased truck traffic.
Prospect Hill Road resident George Yeramian said that he was skeptical when he first got the letter inviting him to a community meeting Thursday at the Marriott on Day Hill Road to learn about the project. But after listening to a presentation and asking some questions about increased traffic, Yeramian, 85, said that he had no objections to it.
"I've lived here 60 years, so I'm used to the traffic," he said, calling the development a benign presence.
Daniel Ferraina, a local developer with several properties on Day Hill Road, said that traffic could hurt his business. "This is going to add a lot of traffic," he said. "If you continue to add traffic, you're going to lose tenants."
At least one neighboring business was supportive of the plan.
"Growth in any state is good thing. Why would be question that?" said Chris Whelpley, campus president of Branford Hall Career Institute on Day Hill Road. He said the seasonal work would be perfect for "starving students out there looking for that little part-time work to help them through."
Courant staff writers Kenneth R. Gosselin and Matthew Sturdevant contributed to this story.
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