VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The city will pay for a new road to service a 3.2-million-square-foot e-commerce robotics fulfillment center and an additional “last-mile” facility headed to farmland south of Naval Air Station Oceana.
The eventual user of the property? It’s believed to be online retail giant Amazon.
Tuesday night, Virginia Beach City Council voted 10-1 to approve a development agreement between the city and the Panattoni Development Company to move the project forward.
Panattoni has built several Amazon warehouse facilities across the country, including the one in Western Branch, one of many clues that it was Jeff Bezos’ company moving in.
Construction could now begin before the end of the year on the combined 237 acres, which straddles both sides of Dam Neck Road near where it meets Harpers Road.
In total, the company behind the development is expected to invest more than $383 million and create more than 1,000 new jobs, according to the city. Those jobs will pay an average of $17 per hour at the large facility and $20 per hour at the 219,000-square-foot facility.
While the city dangled the $22.5 million incentive to lure the company here, City Council members say only one taxpayer will foot the bill.
The larger development, which is the 650,000-square-foot, five-floor building, would include 55 loading docks, 420 tractor-trailer parking spaces and 1,750 parking spaces.
The new road will be constructed between Dam Neck Road and London Bridge Road on city property that was the planned home of the never-built Southeastern Expressway. It will run behind the Prince George Estates neighborhood.
Vice Mayor Rosemary Wilson, who now represents the area as a part of District 5, said the largest concern brought to her attention was the fear of truck traffic disturbing the peace.
“The truck traffic will have to go out on Dam Neck,” Wilson said ahead of the vote. “It’s in the development agreement and that will hopefully help protect (the neighborhoods).”
There are also requirements for substantial landscaping to “buffer” the property.
But what really seemed to please most council members is that the $22.5 million in bonds will be paid off by the real estate tax revenue growth realized on the property over 20 years.
“Taxes from people all over the city won’t have to pay for these improvements,” Councilwoman Barbara Henley said. “I appreciate the applicant being willing to work with the community.”
Councilman Chris Taylor was the lone vote against the project, citing concerns with cuts to other roadway projects in the budget.
“Yet when economic opportunities come, we find ways to fund them,” Taylor said. “It’s troubling.”
However, last week Taylor also came with concerns about assurances that the company, which has laid off thousands in the last several months, will be able to staff the facility. He’s concerned the giant centers could steal employees from small businesses that can’t compete.
Interim Director of Economic Development Chuck Rigney said that’s an ongoing debate across the country.
“One of the things the company did when they were looking at Virginia Beach was understand the demographic and that there was a need for positions like this,” Rigney said, “and that there was an amount of workforce they felt like they could attract.”