Questions about the Amazon Distribution Center continue
By Mike Steely
As the city and county tout the approval of the Sports Authority’s issuance of bonds for stadium construction and the city finalizes reconstruction of the former St. Mary’s Hospital for the new Safety Center, there’s one huge project that sits complete and empty.
The Amazon Fulfillment or Distribution Center sits idle on the site of the former East Towne Mall. The building appears complete, the parking lot is finished, and it looks like everything is ready for Amazon to move there. The questions remains: does Amazon plan to locate there and if so, when?
The city confirmed last year that the real property there has been sold but that was not unusual and Amazon might lease the completed facility and open but no date has been set if one exists.
The Knoxville Focus asked several officials, including Amazon, about plans for the facility.
David Brace, Knoxville Chief Operating Officer, referred The Focus to Harold Cannon, chief economic development officer.
“This is one that many in our City would like to know the answer to,” replied Cannon.
“The most recent information was provided through the Chamber. Specifically, Amazon has shared their continuing commitment to open the Knoxville Facility. While this commitment is great news, there is not a schedule for when this will occur,” he said.
“I don’t have any updates on timing of Amazon opening their Knoxville Delivery Station,” replied Doug Lawyer, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Economic Development.
The Focus was referred to Amazon Public Relations person Divina Mims. Steve Kelly, Amazon’s Director of Corporate Communications, responded that the Knoxville facility still has some work going on inside the building and confirmed that Amazon plans to use the place as a “delivery station” where items would be received and loaded onto smaller vans for delivery.
“We don’t have an exact date but it is still in our plans,’” he said. He also confirmed that the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Alcoa will be opening later this year.
Kelly told The Focus that about 90 percent of the Amazon facilities in the nation operate on property the corporation does not own.
“We are a tenant at this facility,” he said.
“The Knoxville delivery station remains in our plans. While we don’t have a specific launch date to share right know, once we have a better sense of timing, we’ll work with the local community and employment organizations in the area to hire for the facility,” Kelly said.
Alice Bell-Spring Hill Neighborhood Association President Ronnie Collins had this to say about the distribution center: The Alice Bell/Springhill Neighborhood Association worked for years to try to help save East Town Mall. After it eventually closed we were concerned about having a huge big box building sitting in our area for years and years. When we were approached about the possibility of a reuse of the property that would create a lot of jobs we were excited. There have been lots of rumors and questions about the faculty since it has been completed and nothing was going on. It is good to hear that the Knoxville facility is still in the plans.