Gazette reporter Wayne Heilman describes Amazon’s plans to open a huge distribution and sorting center across from the company’s delivery station in Peak Innovation Park, the business park owned by the Colorado Springs Airport.

Securing its future in the city, Amazon has bought land at the Colorado Springs Airport where it will build a 4-million-square-foot distribution and sorting center, a commercial project that will be one of the city’s biggest ever and one that could propel additional development at the airport’s business park. Services, the company's distribution arm, paid $6.33 million to Colorado Springs for 69.2 acres in the Colorado Springs Airport's Peak Innovation Park, where it plans to build the center. Contractors began site preparation work on the site weeks ago, with construction expected to begin next month.

In a news release, Amazon said the center will employ more than 1,000 people in full-time positions starting at $15 an hour with benefits. The center will ship customer orders for books, electronics, toys and other smaller items to the Colorado Springs area, across the rest of the state and to surrounding states. The Seattle-based company said it keeps "the timing of our building launches flexible," but plans filed in October with the city of Colorado Springs indicated the building would be completed early next year.

In an email, Mayor John Suthers said  the center "is precisely the sort of catalytic growth we have been encouraging throughout the city, and especially in the southeast."

The center, he said, will bring "continued positive growth at the Colorado Springs Airport." He credited the airport staff, the city’s economic development division and the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC for helping land the area's biggest economic development project in more than 20 years.

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An Amazon spokeswoman said in an email that the company selected Colorado Springs for the center because of its dedicated workforce, "great local support" and the need to meet customer demand with fulfillment centers close to customers so it can offer fast delivery — within an hour or two for some merchandise.

The company expects to be able to recruit employees, she said, because its minimum wage is $3 an hour higher than Colorado's minimum and Amazon offers benefits that includes medical, dental and vision plans and paid parental leave. Amazon also offers a training program to help employees move into higher-paying jobs in its corporate offices and technology hubs or pursue careers outside Amazon, including health care, information technology, game design and visual communications.

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Amazon opened a 66,000-square-foot delivery station in November, used by the Seattle-based company to make deliveries to customers in the Colorado Springs area through a network of hundreds of  drivers working for small businesses or as independent contractors. A unit of New York-based Fortress Investment Group paid $2.25 million for a 18.7-acre site across Grinnell Boulevard from the distribution center site where the delivery station leased to Amazon now operates.

Amazon first expanded into Colorado Springs by opening a temporary delivery station in late 2018 a large tent on land it leased from the airport near rental car facilities south of the passenger terminal. The company's plans have been shrouded in secrecy, with city approvals made under the code names "Project Jungle" for the delivery station and "Project Rodeo" for the distribution center, but really wasn't much of a secret as Amazon began hiring employees through the Pikes Peak Workforce Center.

Although Amazon said the size of the distribution center would be 800,000 square feet, that is only the size of the building's first floor. Plans filed with the city by real estate giant Trammell Crow, which is developing the distribution center for Amazon, call for office, warehouse and distribution space totaling 4 million square feet over five stories, with 1,800 parking spaces for associates. 

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In a statement, Gov. Jared Polis praised Amazon's continued investment in the state. "Since 2017, they have made significant investments in Colorado — including a massive investment in a rooftop solar facility at its state-of-the-art robotics fulfillment center — and have helped create jobs. Amazon's broad investments reinforce the value and versatility of Colorado’s complete talent supply chain that continues to be sought after by domestic and global companies alike.”

The Amazon fulfillment centers are designed to make same-day deliveries to the surrounding area, while Whole Foods stores and small delivery stations handle one- and two-hour deliveries to Amazon Prime customers in the immediate area. The centers are a study in efficiency, filled with thousands of robots to move around more than 20 million items that are scanned every step from arrival to departure to make sure merchandise is delivered to customers in the fastest and least expensive way possible. 

The distribution center is the latest addition to the 960-acre Peak Innovation Park. The city this month approved selling land in the park to a unit of Atlanta-based hotel operator Hotel Equities for construction of two 121-room hotels connected by a shared lobby on a site near the business park's northern entrance on Milton E Proby Parkway. The park also houses an Army air terminal and offices for defense giant Northrop Grumman and federal research nonprofit Aerospace Corp.

The Amazon and hotel projects are expected to trigger other development in the park, including restaurants, convenience stores and other supporting uses, Phillips said. The Amazon project also is expected to bring additional air cargo to the airport, he said.

Amazon has spent more than $1.5 billion since 2016 in Colorado to build four other distribution and sorting centers, several other delivery stations, Prime Now, Tech and Amazon Air hubs, cloud services and research facilities as well as several storefront locations that now employ more than 4,000 people. The company said Colorado ranks sixth among the 50 states for the fastest-growing small and midsized businesses that sell products on totaling more than 45,000.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234



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