Some of the busiest roads on the South Shore could become even more clogged, thanks to fleets of Amazon delivery trucks shuttling packages to your door. That has some people in Braintree saying “no thanks” to a massive distribution center the retail giant is planning for their town.
Several property owners in a Braintree industrial park are asking that town’s Planning Board to reject a permit Amazon is seeking for a 250,000-square-foot “last-mile” shipping center in an empty warehouse there. They’re worried the stream of delivery trucks, vans, and cars to and from the building would choke traffic up Granite Avenue all the way to Route 128.
“Five Corners is already one of the worst intersections in the world,” said Stewart Rosen, president of Norfolk Cos., a hardware supplier in the Braintree Commerce Center, referring to a five-way intersection between the industrial park and the South Shore Plaza. “That is going to get magnified by zillions if this is approved.”
But in a real estate market where large chunks of warehouse space are hard to come by, especially inside or on Route 128, the building — once the main warehouse for the Bradlees department store chain — is one of the few places where Amazon could locate the kind of operation it needs to make its ever-faster delivery possible in Greater Boston, said Brendan Carroll, director of intelligence at real estate firm Perry Brokerage.
“It’s incredibly rare for this market,” he said. “In a 30-minute drive from here you can reach just an immense population.”
The warehouse is designed to be a sort of midway point between Amazon’s million-square-foot fulfillment center in Fall River and your doorstep or other drop-off points, enabling the company to offer more of its popular same-day and next-day delivery.
But a filing with Braintree officials describes a 24/7 operation with tractor-trailers bringing in packages each night, and fleets of vans and cars — dozens at a time – passing through the building each morning to load and shuttle deliveries out across the region.
“This entire process repeats on a daily basis,” the filing says.
Amazon said it successfully runs such operations at “dozens of similar stations” across the country, though this would be by far its largest so-called last mile operation in Greater Boston. The company runs smaller distribution centers in Dedham and Everett, and has a growing network of Amazon Lockers and other pickup locations — including storefronts — around Greater Boston.
The facility could potentially grow, as well. Amazon is leasing about 250,000 square feet in the warehouse building, which United Liquors vacated two years ago. But there are nearly 200,000 square feet more available.
At its current size, a traffic study supplied by Amazon estimates that 262 vehicles would come and go each hour during the busiest times of the morning. The afternoon hourly count would be closer to 160. The study recommends a traffic light on Granite Avenue, to manage the flow of cars in and out of the industrial park, but otherwise predicted traffic would remain “largely the same.”
“We are excited to continue our investment in the greater Boston area to speed up delivery times for customers and provide great job opportunities for the talented workforce,” the company said in a statement.
Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan said more study of the traffic impact is needed, but he stressed that any concerns about congestion should be balanced against the center’s benefits. Those include about 200 jobs, a boost in property taxes for the city from what’s now an empty warehouse, and more business for nearby restaurants and stores.
“I’m not going to be dismissive of traffic concerns,” Sullivan said. “But we have to look at this in a very thorough, comprehensive way.”
The Planning Board on Tuesday night was scheduled for a hearing on Amazon’s request for the special permit it needs to operate a transportation terminal at the building. Other companies on Campanelli Drive were planning to make their voices heard.
“This is really not the right place for the type of use [Amazon] is proposing,” said Justin Perotta, an attorney for the neighbors. “It’s just a bad mix.”
Sullivan said he expects it will take several meetings to sort through the project. He also said the prospect of Amazon delivery vehicles driving past South Shore Plaza straight to your home is a reflection of how retail is changing.
“You’ve got this great big brick-and-mortar mall, and right down the road; Amazon wants to go in,” Sullivan said. “It’s kind of a microcosm of our economy today.”Tim Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bytimlogan.