A mystery Fortune 500 company that intends to build two warehouse-distribution centers at the Colorado Springs Airport is moving ahead with its plans, while real estate industry insiders speculate that online giant Amazon will emerge as the user of one or both facilities.
"It's like the worst-kept secret," said Randy Dowis of Springs commercial brokerage NAI Highland. "We could all be wrong, but I think it's the worst-kept secret. It's just the rumor mill is running amok. Everyone assumes it's Amazon."
The City Council agreed last month to sell 88 acres in the airport's business park to a Fortune 500 company; city officials have declined to reveal its identity, citing a confidentiality agreement.
The council’s approval came days after Amazon opened a temporary delivery station with 300 employees north of Milton E. Proby Parkway and adjacent to the airport’s business park, which runs south of the parkway and along Powers Boulevard. During that meeting, Councilman Bill Murray referenced Amazon as a possible user of the distribution facilities to be built by the Fortune 500 company.
Plans reviewed by the council showed one warehouse-distribution center — clandestinely named "Project Jungle" — to be built on 18 acres, while a larger "Project Rodeo" would go on 70 acres. Both would be built southeast of Powers and the Proby Parkway and would generate "significant" numbers of jobs, according to information presented to the council.
This week, the Fortune 500 company's representatives submitted documents to city planners showing Project Jungle's building would be 66,780 square feet — roughly the size of a King Soopers grocery. It also would have parking and loading areas.
Bob Cope, city economic development officer, declined to comment Tuesday, though he did say he expects documents also will be submitted to city planners for Project Rodeo. Cope said he didn't know the size of that second building, and couldn't say even if he did. He also couldn't comment on the number of jobs associated with the projects.
"We see them as both very exciting economic development projects for the city," Cope said.
City Aviation Director Greg Phillips also declined to comment. The Fortune 500 company hasn't yet contracted to buy the land, he added.
For conspiracy theorists, or just those who love to unravel a mystery, signs that Amazon will be the user of the distribution centers appear in the Project Rodeo documents.
They were submitted by a manager in the Denver office of national real estate firm Trammell Crow Co., which has marketed and developed property around the country where Amazon has built distribution centers — including a three-story, 2.4-million-square-foot facility on 80 acres in Thornton, north of Denver, according to several online posts.
Also submitting documents on behalf of Project Jungle: Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, a New Jersey-based, global firm that has worked with Amazon and showcases a photo of one of the retailer's distribution centers on its website.
If that's not enough, a report submitted to the city by Langan on traffic to be generated by Project Jungle notes the facility will be busiest in the weeks around Christmas.
"The delivery station will have a non-peak season operation from January through most of November and then have a peak season operation from the end of November to the end of December," the traffic report says.
Cope said he couldn't comment on indicators in the documents that point to Amazon.
"I'm looking forward to when I can," he said.
Craig Anderson, also a broker with NAI Highland, said he assumes Amazon is the user, but he doesn't know for sure and speculation could be wrong.
Then again, he said, it would be logical for Amazon to bring a distribution center to the Springs.
"Their model is to do the larger cities first, and then secondary cities follow," Anderson said.
Likewise, the Springs' population and housing growth are attractive to many businesses, and the city is doing well economically.
"They're probably coming, and this is probably them," Anderson said. "It just takes time."
Dowis, who specializes in industrial properties and has marketed land along the Powers corridor, added that even if Amazon comes, the smaller building could be used by one of its vendors.
In any case, Dowis said, rumors also abound that developers who have worked with Amazon are bidding on its supposed Colorado Springs projects.
"All of these national distribution companies, Walmart, etcetera, they're all going to these big regional and national distribution centers," Dowis said. "It might be Walmart. We don't know for sure. But Amazon is increasing their footprint across the country. So is Walmart, but probably not at the same pace.
"So yes, we're all just trying to connect the dots, and we hope for our community it's Amazon. Because where Amazon goes, they bring in a bunch of vendors behind them, in most cases."