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Amazon plans Napa Valley ’last mile’ delivery station

In its latest move to bring “last mile” delivery of goods closer to its North Bay customers, Amazon unveiled plans for a southern Napa Valley hub for its own fleet of vans.

At a recent American Canyon Planning Commission meeting, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant revealed its plan to put a delivery station on a 58-acre industrial site originally planned for a 1 million-square-foot building, which would have been the North Bay’s biggest commercial structure. But instead of that, the developers of the 173-acre Napa Logistics Park secured commission approval for a 201,950-square-foot distribution warehouse with parking for 1,170 delivery vans and 409 employee vehicles and surrounded by 795 planted trees.

“We’re trying to deliver these products and packages to our customers and your constituents as quickly, as efficiently, as cost-effectively as possible,” said Marc de Bourbon, a Bay Area-based senior program manager for Amazon’s real estate dealings, told the commissioners June 25. The goal is to start construction of the 300 Boone Drive building this summer and have it open about a year later, said partner Ernie Knodel of developer Orchard Partners.

Amazon also plans a last-mile location near the city of Sonoma in a 260,000-square-foot warehouse called Victory Station. A few years ago, the company built a similar-sized facility in Vacaville.

One of the motivations previously reported for the Sonoma location is to shorten the distance Amazon vans have to travel from an East Bay sorting facility that serves the North Bay.

Here’s the basic description on how a product gets from a customer’s order click to the bricks in front of the house, according to de Bourbon. Order details go to one of the company’s fulfillment centers, which typically encompass 1.5 million to 3 million square feet and store roughly 30 million products.

The item is pulled from the shelf, boxed, labeled and loaded on a 53-foot line-haul truck bound for one of the company’s 400,000- to 900,000-square-foot sortation centers. That’s where computer algorithms determine the best way to get the package to the customer: U.S. Postal Service, couriers such as UPS, Amazon Logistics or a combination of methods. If its own delivery system works better, Amazon workers put the package on another 53-foot truck bound for a last-mile delivery station.

Once there, the parcel is coded, sorted by ZIP code overnight and placed on 5- to 6-foot high baker’s racks. Delivery drivers arrive in their own vehicles at 9 a.m. then after 30-minute stand-up safety meetings, they move their assigned carts to their vans, load them and then depart in two waves, leaving at 10–11:30 a.m. and returning after 7 p.m. to avoid being on the road during evening and morning rush hour.

“One thing we’ve learned in the jurisdictions we’re in is that they are very sensitive to our traffic,” de Bourbon told the commission. Traffic was one of the concerns brought up by citizens after Sonoma County planning staff gave an initial green light to the Victory Station hub.

From eight last-mile delivery stations a few years ago, Amazon Logistics now has around 240 such locations across the country, according to de Bourbon.

The Amazon building wouldn’t be the first major e-commerce hub in Napa Valley. The first building constructed in Napa Logistics Park was 646,000-square-foot 1 Middleton Way, which is an Ikea dedicated customer-distribution center, part of a new business model for the European homewares company.

Under construction now in the business park is a 702,000-square-foot distribution warehouse, roughly half-leased to Napa-based wine logistics company Biagi Bros. Construction of the fourth building in the park, 500 Boone, is set to begin this summer, Knodel said.

Jeff Quackenbush (jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256) covers wine, construction and real estate.

Watch the Amazon Napa Valley station presentation at the planning commission hearing:

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