Cosgrove Discusses Amazon’s Preliminary Plans for Branford
Amazon is eyeing dormant commercial property off Branford’s Exit 53 as the site for a 98,000 square-foot facility that would employ 100 and deploy “last mile” van delivery of products ordered through the e-commerce giant. Commercial Parkway currently provides access to commercial locations including including Wal*Mart, Vox Church, Branford Cue & Brew and a newly constructed commercial building at the site of the former Cherry Hill Lanes. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound)
Amazon is eyeing dormant commercial property off Branford’s Exit 53 as the site for a 98,000 square-foot facility that would employ 100 and deploy “last mile” van delivery of products ordered through the e-commerce giant, said Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove.
Cosgrove said he and Town staff initially met with Amazon representatives to go over a preliminary plan, followed by the company's request to present its preliminary proposal to Branford's Economic Development Commission (EDC), with that discussion taking place at an EDC meeting last week. Cosgrove said reviewing the plan addressed questions and provided information which gave him, staff and members of the EDC confidence in the conceptual plan introduced by Amazon. Amazon's formal application is anticipated to be submitted to the Town in the next month or two, he said.
Branford’s Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) would be the first agency to review the plan. If approved by the IWC, the plan would then go before Branford’s Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) for review and final approval. Both the IWC and PZC would hold public hearings as part of the plan review process.
Benefits of the Preliminary Plan
The site where the facility would rise is situated on Commercial Parkway on land Cosgrove said has been “stagnant for decades.” The property was taken down to asphalt years ago, after razing formerly commercial infrastructure.
“It’s a true redevelopment," said Cosgrove of Amazon's proposal for the site. "That area is all asphalt and concrete now."
He said he also saw some environmental benefits in the proposal Amazon’s design team presented, in terms of controlling storm runoff and improving water quality.
Commercial Parkway currently provides access to commercial locations including Wal*Mart, Vox Church, Branford Cue & Brew and a newly constructed commercial building at the site of the former Cherry Hill Lanes. Amazon’s facility would fit well into the area and bring tax revenue to the town, said Cosgrove.
“After hearing the proposal and the plan, I think it’s a good plan,” said Cosgrove. “It’s a less intensive use than what retail would be [and] it’s an industry that continues to grow. So I think it’s development that we can have some sort of confidence will be there for the long term. I think it generates much needed growth in the tax grand list.”
Amazon has not yet supplied any estimated figures on proposed tax revenues for the Town.
“We haven’t had that analysis yet,” Cosgrove confirmed. “But it is a 98,000 square foot facility, and it has a lot of equipment which would be taxed as personal property, as well as the vans located here in Branford, which would also be subject to personal property [tax].”
Cosgrove also said concerns he had about increased traffic in the area caused by the operation of the Amazon facility were allayed after reviewing the proposal. Cosgrove said part of the reason why traffic generation would be less impactful than some might expect is because Amazon’s plans for Branford would be to build one of the company’s smaller-scale facilities.
By contrast, Amazon’s North Haven sortable fulfillment center, which opened in June 2019, is 885,000 square feet. Sortable fulfillment centers are Amazon’s largest facilities, according to https://www.aboutamazon.com/workplace/facilities. At 98,000 square feet, Branford’s proposed facility, a delivery station, is at the opposite end of the scale. As described at the website, “...in these buildings, customer orders are prepared for last-mile delivery to customers. Amazon delivery providers enable our fast, everyday shipping.”
Addressing Traffic Issues
After going through the preliminary presentation made by Amazon, Cosgrove said his concerns regarding traffic impacts were addressed.
“Of course, you always look at what the impact is going to be,” said Cosgrove. “After hearing the presentation, as well looking at it in terms of what that impact would be in terms of the numbers compared to other uses; as I said, I feel this would be a far less intensive use of our road system.”
Cosgrove said the plan presented by Amazon estimates the facility would have 12 tractor trailers interacting at the site daily and 100 employees over the course of a day as part of its work to deploy vans for local deliveries.
“Even how they deploy the vans is done in a way to mitigate the impact to the traffic on the roads,” said Cosgrove.
The area’s I-95 Exit 53 intersects with a busy segment of Route 1 on West Main Street, where a current commercial construction project is underway to bring in a 19,000 square-foot Aldi grocery store and stand-alone Chase Bank building to 1151 West Main St. (roughly across Route 1 from Exit 53).
Unlike many other I-95 exit interchanges, Exit 53 does not have both on-and-off ramps for southbound and northbound traffic. Instead, it has a single I-95 northbound off-ramp, and single I-95 southbound on-ramp. In past years, Cosgrove and other town leaders have discussed working with the state Dept. of Transportation to reconfigure Exit 53 to create a more viable traffic pattern for large-scale companies looking to develop in the area.
As far as Amazon is concerned, “...this plan is a less intensive use, so the traffic numbers analysis that they have done so far wouldn’t warrant that reconfiguration,” said Cosgrove. “However, it’s important to note their engineer had laid [the plan] out in a way that wouldn’t preclude any improvements from reconfiguration happening in the future. And we do continue to look for support and funding to make those infrastructure improvements in the Exit 53 area.”
Cosgrove added that Amazon has shown it is a beneficial company which supports its employees, and a move to Branford would provide more good job opportunities here.
“It provides jobs, for which Amazon is a company providing both pay and benefits above the average,” he said.