Amazon.com will open two warehouses in London, but multiple Free Press sources say the e-commerce giant is examining whether to also bring a massive sorting and distribution centre to the former Ford assembly plant site in Talbotville.
Amazon leased two warehouses in London that will each employ about 100 workers, the company said Wednesday.
But a much bigger move may loom.
There are discussions that Broccolini Construction in Toronto is looking at the former assembly plant site on Highway 4 south of Highway 401 for a major development, and is in talks with officials from Southwold Township to buy the land, sources say.
Broccolini, which could not be reached for comment Wednesday, has built nine warehouse, sorting and distribution centres in Quebec and Ontario for Amazon, according to its website.
“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; however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap and are not yet commenting on any specific operations plans in Talbotville. Stay tuned,” read an email statement from Vanessa Pontes, spokesperson for Amazon Canada.
Area officials confirmed talks are underway between Southwold Township and builders for Amazon.
“There has been a lot of talk they are close to a sale of that property. It could be very positive news for this area,” said one person with knowledge of the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Lisa Higgs, Southwold’s top bureaucrat, said matters related to that site are “strictly confidential,” adding: “We would love to see development on that site. I am hoping there may be some news soon.”
The Ford plant closed in 2011 after 44 years assembling cars and about 1,100 people lost their jobs when it closed. The plant on 254 hectares of land was torn down in 2015. The site was listed for sale that year for $22.75 million.
As for the warehouses, one is being built by Dancor Construction at Huron Street and Robins Hill Road and PCL Construction is renovating a second site at 580 Industrial Rd.
“We’re very excited to be growing in London. The city has a strategic location with a strong customer base and we are looking forward to being part of the community,” Pontes said.
In addition to the 200 warehouse workers at both locations, Amazon will employ 130 drivers, she said.
The Huron Street warehouse will have charging stations for electric delivery vehicles and infrastructure to add solar panels, Sean Ford, managing partner at Dancor, said.
“My understanding is they want to be in London. It’s amazing they’re coming here,” Ford said.
Ford has no knowledge of the possibility Amazon may add a larger distribution and packaging centre, but it fits a pattern of adding a fulfilment centre in cities where it has warehouse space.
“It’s their model. They build fulfilment centres and warehouses. That’s how they grow,” Ford said.
In the Amazon model, products are sent to fulfillment centres, packaged, sent to warehouses and then delivered to customers.
Over the years several developments have been linked to the former Ford site, including Blueforest Ventures Inc. of Waterloo, which proposed building a green energy and agri-food development. Railmark, from Wixom, Mich., wanted to build a rail and truck transportation hub. In 2015 Capstone Infrastructure proposed a $75-million solar farm at the site.
Sean Dyke, chief executive of economic development for St. Thomas, would not comment on Amazon’s interest in the land, but is not surprised it’s getting attention.
“No matter who invests there, it is a beautiful site, the best industrial site available in Ontario,” Dyke said.