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Construction begins on big Amazon fulfillment center in Vacaville

E-commerce giant Amazon is planning to make its biggest investment in the North Bay so far — and its third local plan hatched this year — securing a Solano County fulfillment center being built with enough space under roof to hold nearly 11 football fields.

The tenant of the hulking warehouse going up between Midway Road and Interstate 505 in Vacaville was disclosed in a recently approved city permit as “LDK Warehouse T.I. (Amazon).” The tenant-improvement building permit for the structure, located on 36 acres at 4800 Midway, was issued Sept. 24 to property owner LDK Ventures, according to the document.

“Walls are being tilted on the 617,000-square-foot building, and we will be complete with building by July,” said Denton Kelly, a principal of LDK Ventures, the Sacramento-based owner for the NorthBay Logistics Center property.

The Vacaville project follows a smaller warehouse built in the city a few years ago for the e-tailer.

It’s unclear what Amazon will do with the existing Vacaville warehouse. The company didn’t elaborate, when asked about the new project:

“Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers. That said, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap and are not yet able to provide any specific operation plans,” Amazon’s statement said.

Depending on the types of operations, Amazon fulfillment centers can employ several hundred to around 1,000 workers, according to announcements. The company said it has over 175 fulfillment centers across the globe and more than 110 in North America.

The company has inked leases for last-mile delivery stations in southern Sonoma and Napa counties. They are intended to be hubs for local deliveries, rather than having trucks shuttle between East Bay and Vacaville fulfillment centers.

In April, Amazon leased the 250,000-square-foot Victory Station building, built in 2018 at 22801 Eighth St. E. just south of Sonoma on Highway 12. But that plan in August encountered opposition from a county advisory committee over parking, traffic and drainage issues, according to the Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Opponents of the Amazon plan at Victory Station in early September filed an appeal, asserting that the proposed uses be consistent with the M3 (limited rural industrial) zoning district, according to county records and Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma. The appeal would have to be heard by the county Planning Commission.

At the same time, the Victory Station property owner and Amazon are expected to submit a modified application that would include the existing warehouse building and an adjacent 3-acre property acquired to provide additional parking. Because the original design review approval for the building didn’t include Amazon or the parking site, the California Environmental Quality Act and county zoning ordinance require a new traffic study and reevaluation of project entitlements, Wick said.

“It’s going to be a while before there’s any decision on that,” he said.

Meanwhile in American Canyon, construction was green-lighted in June for a nearly 202,000-square-foot Amazon delivery warehouse at Napa Logistics Park. The company’s 58-acre portion of the development includes parking for 1,170 delivery vans and 409 employee vehicles.

Amazon opened its first North Bay distribution center in 2017. Sacramento-based Buzz Oates Group of Companies built a 321,933-square-foot warehouse for the firm at 300 Crocker Drive in Vacaville Business Park.

The company operates several types of warehouses in its logistics network. Details about an order 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, according to a presentation by a local Amazon real estate executive at the recent American Canyon Planning Commission meeting.

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, like to ones planned for Napa and Sonoma counties.

The new Vacaville Amazon warehouse is part of the second phase of the 124-acre NorthBay Logistics Center development. The first phase was the multitenant transformation of an 843,000-square-foot Savemart distribution center, vacant when LDK Ventures purchased it in October 2017. It was later leased for e-commerce operations by Marin County’s Serena & Lily and Napa County’s Wineshipping/24Seven Enterprises.

The second phase also includes a 93,000-square-foot warehouse, which is set to move into construction in the first quarter of next year, Kelly said.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4256.

Update, Nov. 5, 2020: A statement from Amazon about the new Vacaville project was added.

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