Loveland annexation could accommodate huge Amazon distribution center
LOVELAND — Part of a 152-acre parcel of land near Northern Colorado Regional Airport due to be annexed by the city of Loveland could become home to a massive new Amazon distribution center and several thousand jobs.
The Loveland Planning Commission is set to consider a proposal by Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. to prepare land for a multi-million-square-foot structure built into multiple stories on 75 acres of the 152-acre overall parcel. The remaining 77 acres would be reserved for industrial use.
Documents don’t note a specific size or a specific company, but drawings in the commission’s packet of information show a multi-story warehouse structure. Trammell Crow has built similar facilities in other markets for Amazon.
A source familiar with the deal said the project could include three stories and floor plates of 800,000 square feet, meaning that the building could encompass 2.4 million square feet.
The 75 acres, the closest to the airport, would be rezoned to a planned unit development, which would enable “deviations or unique standards” relative to Loveland’s Unified Development Code, planning commission documents said, allowing a 125-foot-tall building, compared with 50 feet; more floor space relative to the land for a bigger or taller building; and about half the number of parking spaces.
The facility would also get “an allowance for potential Heavy Logistics use.” Heavy logistics refers to uses “expected to generate 12 or more truck trips per day,” planning documents said.
At a virtual neighborhood meeting on July 26 to discuss the project, Taylor Nelson, a development manager with Trammell Crow, said variances include elements for specialized warehouses that often don’t need what standard industrial complexes might for parking, instead opting for a bigger building on less land.
“Our best guess is the parcels of land will be developed by different groups at different times, depending on market conditions,” Nelson said, for “industrial or ‘modified industrial’” uses.
There were four public attendees at the meeting, including the land broker on the deal, a landscaper, a real estate broker, and one person who did not give his name; none had comments.
Trammell Crow is working on the project with Langan Engineering & Environmental Services Inc. of Parsippany, New Jersey. Trammell Crow and Langan have previously worked with Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. on projects, including an 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center on 93 acres in Richmond, Texas, begun in 2020 and set for completion this year.
Trammell Crow and Langan also were part of a five-story, 3.8 million square foot distribution center for Amazon on Grand Island, near Buffalo, New York — a project later withdrawn after local opposition — and an almost identical project in Syracuse, which is scheduled to open this fall.
Langan was Amazon’s engineer on a project in Massachusetts and one in Langan’s home state of New Jersey, both of which began last year, though Trammell Crow wasn’t the developer on those deals.
The three also worked together on at least two Colorado projects: an 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Thornton and a 3.5 million-square-foot facility in Colorado Springs.
Amazon also leases 123,000 square feet at Centerra in Loveland, 19,000 square feet in Boulder, and plans to occupy 200,000 square feet in Broomfield, in a project being built by McWhinney.
Amazon has been adding clusters of fulfillment and logistics facilities in U.S. markets near larger metro areas of late. Richmond is near Houston, and in Fort Bend County where the company had previously leased or broken ground on at least 1.2 million square feet.
Six months later, the global ecommerce retailer unveiled plans for 1 million square feet in Missouri City, Texas, 15 miles away. The two new centers are said to be bringing 1,500 jobs.
Amazon said in April that it plans a five-story facility on a 650,000-square-foot footprint and on just less than half of a 247-acre site near Richmond, Virginia, 90 miles from similar work in Suffolk and Chesapeake. The three total several million square feet and are expected to combine for several thousand jobs, with facility openings planned this year and next.
A news report in Southern California said in March the retailer ran 19 fulfillment, sorting, and air cargo centers and 32 “last-mile” sites there, from which vehicles depart for individual deliveries, totaling 13 million square feet of space in the region. Much of the real estate was added recently in Los Angeles and Orange counties as Amazon moved beyond its historical base in the Inland Empire.
Newer U.S. centers often include Amazon’s robotics technology, used to pull products from warehouse shelves for shipping, the news reports said. In April 2019, Amazon spent more than $100 million to acquire Boulder-based warehouse robotics startup Canvas Technology LLC, which developed technology to help robots navigate around people.
Amazon centers in Colorado include the five-story, 3.5-million-square-foot complex in Colorado Springs that opened July 11, and Thornton’s 850,000-square-foot facility which opened in 2018.
Last August, Amazon said it would expand a tech hub in Denver by 100 jobs and 20,000 square feet of office space. At the time, it had about 10,500 employees statewide.
Nikki Wheeler, communications manager for Amazon in Colorado, said it had 16,000 full- and part-time workers here at year-end.
News outlets in late July pegged Amazon’s national employee headcount at 950,000, a dip from the 1.3 million offered up in reports in January, after the holiday hiring season.
Loveland mayor pro-tem Don Overcash, whose Ward IV includes the land, said he hadn’t heard of specific companies coming to the area or locations where they might land, but “if someone were to present to me a primary employer locating in Loveland, bringing jobs … it’s all about providing opportunity for people to take care of their families.”
It’s “possibly a really good thing,” he said. “If it’s not good for Loveland, I’d have a different opinion.”
The 152 acres is now owned by several family trusts that are, “working with the development team [on] a light-industrial and logistics park,” said Ron Kuehl, co-owner and managing broker of Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. in Loveland.
“The process is not over,” he said.
One property owner said by telephone that the land is under contract to a buyer; Kuehl said families have been talking with three potential suitors but that none are under contract, and “there is no schedule” on closing a deal.
The annexation and zoning come first, he said. “Then we have something we can actually sell.”
He declined further comment.
Landowners include trusts of the Johnson, McCreery, Reichert, and LaBau families. The group sought Loveland annexation via attorney Sara J.L. Irby of Fischer, Brown, Bartlett, Larsen & Irby PC in Fort Collins.
The Johnson trust; the McCreery and Reichert Trusts; and the LaBau trusts each hold one-third undivided interest in the property.
Marian Johnson ranches in Wyoming; the McCreerys run businesses in Windsor and Loveland; the Reicherts are also local; LaBau family trusts are in Alaska, where one member is a longtime forestry professional who graduated from Colorado State University in 1957. The LaBaus have a named scholarship there under the Warner College of Natural Resources.
An entity called the Thayer Family Trust is listed on the Planning Commission agenda as owner, but the entity, at one time located in Fort Collins, wasn’t part of the annexation request and isn’t listed on technical documents.
County assessor records don’t show Thayer Trust as a current owner, though it was involved in 1994. The property passed by quit claim deed multiple times at a $0 purchase price, indicating a gift, possibly an inheritance. Ownership came to the current owners in 2016, where it remains.
The Secretary of State shows Donna McCreery, trustee for one of the ownership trusts as registered agent for the Thayer Family Partnership LLP.
Owners generally declined comment, didn’t respond, or referred queries to Irby, who didn’t reply to calls or emails.
A broker in the area indicated raw industrial land that needs annexation and zoning, as well as utilities and infrastructure, could be worth about $10,000 to $15,000 an acre.
The parcel has been working its way through city approvals, including neighborhood planning sessions and, most recently, as a consent item at the Loveland City Council meeting on Aug. 3, which moved forward without comment.
That set a Sept. 7 public hearing on the project.
Monday’s planning commission meeting will consider annexation and rezoning and recommend action to the council for the September hearing.
Corporate, Colorado, local and media representatives for the parties involved — Amazon; real estate developer Trammell Crow Co.; engineers Langan; and the property owners, their attorney, and land broker — in general declined comment, or denied a deal was in place.
“We’re proud of [our Colorado] investments,” said Amazon’s Wheeler, but “we don’t generally speak about prospective projects.”
She declined to say whether this was one of them.
Loveland city staff and airport and water district personnel did not return phone calls.
Two local commercial real estate sources said Amazon is the prospective user of the land — but this fact could not be independently confirmed by several other sources contacted by BizWest.
Planning commission documents state, “No development is being proposed at this time.”
City council and planning commission documents give the project the working title of “Loveland Commerce Park Addition.”
Overcash said Tuesday before the council meeting that the airport land is “a good location for industrial, manufacturing, or light industry.”
“Negotiations are ongoing for a lot of opportunities,” he told BizWest Wednesday, “and it generally does not come before council until action is required.”
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