Amazon will open a distribution center next year on the former ConAgra site, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
Last week, a unanimous Garner Town Council approved a special-use permit for a four-story, 2.6-million-square-foot distribution center on 88 acres on Jones Sausage Road.
Hillwood, a commercial real estate developer, will build the distribution center on behalf of a client. Scott Martin, director of development for Hillwood, told the Town Council last week that his client wants the distribution center open by September 2019.
Martin did not name his client, and during the lengthy public hearing last week on the special-use permit, no one said what company would occupy the distribution center, code-named Project Axis.
When asked this week what he could say about the project, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said, "Nothing."
But the source familiar with the discussions said Amazon would build a distribution center employing up to 1,500 people. Martin did not confirm the number of jobs but said the distribution center would have two shifts, though it could sometimes have three.
The documentation associated with the project has many specifics — 58 docking bays and 1,800 parking spaces, for example — but it does not name a company. The only hint that Amazon could be the tenant is the building's color scheme — three different shades of gray with accents in yellow and blue. Amazon has used that color scheme on some of its fulfillment centers.
On Monday, WRAL News reported that "sources who spoke on condition of anonymity" had told the media outlet "for several months that Amazon had its eyes on the Garner location." The Triangle Business Journal reported on Tuesday that the developer of the ConAgra site had ties to Amazon.
Chris Johnson, director of economic development in Johnston County, said he was not aware of discussions with Amazon. But as Amazon moves more deeply into groceries and grocery delivery, Garner makes sense because of its proximity to Raleigh, Johnson said. He noted that studies point to Amazon inching closer to urban cores with its distribution centers.
Amazon already has a distribution center in Durham and another in Kannapolis. The company also is planning a distribution center near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. That facility, scheduled to be completed in late 2019, will employ 1,500 people. The city has agreed to give Amazon $13.7 million in incentives, according to The Charlotte Observer.