The deal, which has been in the works for several years, was finalized in early March 2020, and it’s already drawing attention for being one of the largest transactions in Baton Rouge since the 2013 sale of the former downtown Advocate location which became an IBM software development center and apartment tower.
The former shopping center has been purchased by Seefried Industrial Properties, a developer that has a history of working closely with Amazon. Seefried has filed documents with the city-parish Planning Commission that call for the demolishing of the Cortana Mall and replacing it with a single five-level warehouse and office.
If approved, it’s thought that this will likely become an Amazon Fulfillment center, as the warehouse would have 2.9 million square feet of space. A vice president of CSRS, the engineering firm representing Seefried, Walter Monsour, calls the turning of Cortana into an Amazon fulfillment center a “seminal project” for the city of Baton Rouge. And with the building’s plans detailing that the new warehouse and office would be accompanied by 1,251 parking spaces, minds are already contemplating how many new jobs will be created in the city as a result of the monumental development.
Before the Mall of Louisiana was built, Cortana Mall was Baton Rouge’s primary shopping center, but it’s largely been shut down since September of 2019. In fact, the only tenant remaining in the space is a Dillard’s clearance center, which is set to close its doors in April 2021. Many are welcoming the potential of this transaction with said Amazon developer.
The next step for the city lies with the Metro Council, which is set to vote on the rezoning of the Cortana site at a special meeting. The Director of Business Development for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Donnie Miller, told the Council that the project was still very much alive, despite recent delays on the closing transaction.
This deal from Amazon is indicative of the large company setting their sights on the fruitfulness that is the South Louisiana region, as evidenced by the several moves made in the past few months to open two fulfillment centers and one delivery station in both metro Baton Rouge and Lafayette. While this will double Amazon’s area operations, it doesn’t seem like the online retailer will stop there from building out its total South Louisiana distribution network.
When reached out to by The Advocate, Marc Wulfraat, a logistics expert who tracks Amazon, estimated that the combined populations of metro New Orleans, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge indicate that as many as six additional local delivery stations could be added to the three existing stations already operating in the South Louisiana area. Additionally, the combined populations could also support an indication that a regional sortation center could also be developed nearby.
Currently, Amazon has two delivery stations in the New Orleans Elmwood area and one in Baton Rouge that was recently built off Rieger Road, and these handle what is known as “last mile delivery” for the company. The main “feeders” are the company’s fulfillment centers, which are designed to pick, pack, and ship bulky items such as rugs, patio furniture, and outdoor equipment. Currently a fulfillment center is under construction in Carencro at the former Evangeline Downs site, which is set to open in about a year where it will employ 500 people.
Wulfraat is the president and founder of MWPVL, a Montreal-based supply chain, distribution, and logistics consulting firm, and he envisions the Cortana site as a fulfillment center that would be set to handle small, sortable products, based on the facility’s size, proving to be a substantial step forward for the city of Baton Rouge and its citizens.
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