It sounds like Amazon is not coming to Braintree after all.
The e-commerce giant is backing out of plans for a “last-mile” distribution center in the South Shore town, said Mayor Joseph Sullivan, even as it pushes ahead with plans for an even-larger such center in Revere.
Sullivan said he didn’t know why Amazon was scrapping plans for a 250,000-square-foot facility on Campanelli Drive near Braintree High School. He said he received notification last week from its landlord at the Braintree Commerce Center without an explanation. A company spokesman had no immediate comment.
But the warehouse — which Amazon had described as a key link in its ever-faster distribution network in Greater Boston — had been subject to about 18 months of debate, first at Braintree Planning Board meetings, and later in state Land Court.
Neighbors of the Commerce Center initially complained about the impact of hundreds of cars and vans each hour that would cycle travel along busy Granite Street, ferrying goods to Route 128 and then to doorsteps across the region. After town officials approved the project, Amazon filed a suit challenging several of their requirements, particularly one requiring delivery vehicles — many of which would be cars owned by independent contractors — to have signs indicating they were from Amazon.
That suit, however, was recently resolved. The two sides settled in Land Court last month and Sullivan said Amazon had agreed to the signs. Then the company simply stopped communicating with the town.
“We have no idea why. We’ve not been informed at all,” Sullivan said Monday afternoon. “You would think they’d call as a simple courtesy for our work on this issue over the last two years.”
Amazon had not yet started significant work to retrofit the warehouse, which previously housed a liquor distributor, Sullivan said. About 200 people were expected to work in the facility, which would have paid a few hundred thousand dollars in annual property taxes, Sullivan said. Amazon had also agreed to spend $1.2 million upgrading traffic signals in Braintree. The Patriot Ledger first reported Amazon’s decision to scrap plans for the warehouse.
The massive retailer is rapidly growing its distribution network elsewhere in Eastern Massachusetts as it focuses on the one-day delivery service that has become its calling card.
Earlier this month, Amazon confirmed plans to lease the old Necco candy factory in Revere to serve as an 830,000-square-foot “delivery station” — the last stop for packages before they’re sent to customers — much as it had envisioned doing to the south in Braintree. In North Andover, a developer is pushing ahead with a three-million-square-foot complex that Amazon would lease for a regional “fulfillment center” akin to its giant complex in Fall River. Smaller facilities in Everett, Dedham, and Milford already ship its goods around the region.
The high-speed delivery network those warehouses enable come at a considerable price for the company.
Amazon said last week that it plans to invest about $1.5 billion in one-day shipping in the last three months of this year, nearly double what it spent just in April, May, and June. Much of that additional expense will be the result of transportation costs — the holiday shopping season, is Amazon’s busiest time of year — but it also includes spending on real estate and staffing as the company opens more warehouses.
“The route density and other things will improve over time and get our cost structure down,” chief financial officer Brian Olsavsky said on a call with analysts last week. “But for now there is certainly some start-up [cost] in adding new capacity.”
But not in Braintree.