4.1 million-square-foot warehouse in Ontario will be Amazon’s biggest ever – Orange County Register

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Rising from Inland Empire dairy lands, a box-like building with a trademark “Alexa Blue” stripe around its top soon will become the largest warehouse in Amazon’s logistics network.

At almost 4.1 million square feet, the five-story, 97-foot-tall behemoth now taking shape in southwestern Ontario will have more space than any other Amazon warehouse not just in America, but in the world.

“That’s the biggest (Amazon warehouse) we see in our database,” said Marc Wulfraat, president of Canadian-based logistics consulting firm MWPVL International, which tracks the Seattle retailer’s distribution network.

Amazon on Thursday, May 26 confirmed the massive Ontario warehouse was part of its network.

“The footprint is over 800K square feet and the total square footage is over 4 mil (sic) making it one of our largest buildings,” an Amazon representative said in an email.

San Francisco-based logistics giant Prologis Inc. is building the warehouse for Amazon, which already has at least 17.9 million square feet of warehouse space in Southern California.

Amazon signed a lease for the building last summer, and construction began soon after. A Prologis spokesperson said construction should be done by the end of the year, clearing the way for a new distribution and automation center to begin operations.

At that size, the new 4,055,890-square-foot structure — sitting atop a former cattle feedlot — will be almost as big as two 73-story Wilshire Grand Hotels, the region’s tallest skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles.

Amazon’s new warehouse floor space, measuring some 93 acres, would hold all of Disney’s California Adventure theme park — with 21 acres to spare.

But the future of the building and some of Amazon’s other Southern California distribution centers may be in doubt. An e-commerce boom that exploded during the pandemic slowed over the past year as people resumed shopping in stores, leaving Amazon with a $3.8 billion loss at the start of 2022, its first quarterly loss in seven years.

The setback prompted the online retail giant to curtail a two-year warehouse-acquisition binge.

Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Amazon now wants to shed 10 million to 30 million square feet from its warehouse network, either by subleasing some of its space or by terminating leases — possibly including leases with Prologis.

Bloomberg reported the company has excess capacity in Southern California, as well as New York, New Jersey and Atlanta.

Chief Executive Andy Jassy said in Amazon’s first-quarter earnings report that it took the company 25 years to amass 193 million square feet of warehouse space but just two years to double its global network to 387 million square feet, 370 million of that in North America.

“The pandemic and subsequent war in Ukraine have brought unusual growth and challenges,” Jassy said in the company’s April filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But, Jassy added, “we’re no longer chasing physical or staffing capacity.”

One real estate analyst speculated that Amazon will sublease space elsewhere in Southern California before it puts the new Ontario warehouse on the chopping block.

“I’m not sure they’d be able to find another single user for space of that size,” said Joshua Ohl, senior market analyst for real estate data firm CoStar Group. “From what I’ve heard, Amazon has been placing more of its older facilities on the sublease market that have less automation, fewer (high-level loading docks) and lower clear heights.”

Wulfraat said that as Amazon increasingly expands its use of robotics, it needs more space to store the “pods” that hold merchandise.

“The more items you have, the more pods you need,” he said.

In a press release last August, Amazon said a new fulfillment center in Ontario would employ 1,500 people who will work alongside its robots as they pick, pack and ship smaller-sized items to customers.

If the facility is anything like a new, five-story warehouse just outside Wilmington, Del., robots could outnumber humans 10 to one, according to a recent Philadelphia Inquirer story.

At the Delaware warehouse, workers unload trucks and stow the contents in 8-foot-tall stacks of square yellow bins. Once in the bins, goods are ready for retrieval by robots, the Inquirer story said. Robotic vehicles are guided by optical and motion sensors, selecting and carrying Amazon merchandise from storage bins to delivery.

A herd of dairy cows graze at a farm near a five-story structure being built as part of the Merrill Commerce Center located just north of Chino airport, between Carpenter, Eucalyptus and Merrill Avenues in Chino on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A herd of dairy cows feed at a farm near a five-story structure being built as part of the Merrill Commerce Center located just north of Chino Airport, between Carpenter, Eucalyptus and Merrill Avenues in Ontario on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Amazon’s next-biggest warehouse after the Ontario building will be a 3.87 million-square-foot facility under construction in Loveland, Colo., said Wulfratt, the MWPVL president. The company has eight other buildings in operation or under construction with at least 3.8 million square feet.

The company’s biggest Southern California warehouse is a 3.4 million-square-foot building in south San Diego County, followed by the 2.56 million-square-foot facility in Beaumont, he said.

Amazon’s new Ontario warehouse is the first to rise out of a massive conversion of nearly 600 acres of agricultural land north of Chino Airport. Two recently approved developments will add 13.8 million square feet of industrial and commercial space to the region.

Last year, Ontario approved the 376-acre Merrill Commerce Center, which includes the new Amazon building. Prologis plans to build 7 million square feet of big-box industrial on the site, plus a 1.4 million-square-foot business park.

In March, the city approved the South Ontario Logistics Center, where developers intend to build 5.3 million square feet of warehouse space.

The Logistics Center plan received vocal opposition from residents fearing increased traffic and pollution and opposed to the conversion of more farmland into warehouses. A lawsuit and a petition drive have been launched to reverse the city’s approval of the development.

Yet, more warehouses already are in the pipeline for the Inland Empire, which is home to 583 million square feet of warehouse and logistics buildings, according to CoStar. More than 30 million more square feet of big-box industrial are under construction.

With an industrial vacancy rate of just 1%, the Inland Empire leads the nation with 60% year-over-year rent growth for big-box facilities, commercial brokerage CBRE reported in early May.

“Big-box development is spreading eastward through the San Gorgonio Pass and into the Coachella Valley along Interstate 10,” the report said.

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