What could be one of the largest Amazon distribution and warehouse facilities in the country is being proposed for Dane County.
The retail giant is working with a developer on plans for a 3.4 million-square-foot facility at the intersection of highways TT and N in the village of Cottage Grove just north of Interstate 94.
The $200 million, five-story project on a 145-acre site would employ 1,500 people, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and serve as a “middle mile” facility catering to large trucks that deliver to other distribution facilities that service delivery vans charged with final destinations for packages.
If approved, construction could begin later this year with the facility opening about 18 months later. No tax assistance has been requested from the village for the project, located within a 300-acre tax incremental financing district, according to Matt Giese, the village’s administrator.
The village has about $900 million in property valuation, and the addition of the Amazon facility would be a boon for decades to come.
“It’s a huge economic win for the village and Dane County as a whole,” Giese said Friday. “It’s just an ideal location.”
Wisconsin is home to several large Amazon facilities, including a 2.6 million-square-foot, $200 million distribution center that opened in 2020 in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. That same year, Amazon opened a 1.3 million-square-foot, $105 million facility in Beloit that employs 500 people and in 2015 opened a $250 million, 1.5 million-square-foot distribution and fulfillment center in Kenosha.
According to Warehouse Automation, a website that tracks large developments, Amazon is building at least six other U.S. facilities that are larger than the proposed Cottage Grove project, including a 4 million-square-foot, $370 million facility in Colorado Springs.
The Cottage Grove development was first introduced to the village in December by the Trammell Crow Co. as “Project Silver Eagle” but later was identified in public meetings as an Amazon facility. Trammell Crow is one of the nation’s largest commercial real estate developers and has been behind several other Amazon projects around the country.
Much of the land for the project had been owned by Cottage Grove Business Development, an LLC with the same address as Greywolf Partners in Cottage Grove and which recently completed the construction of a Comfort Suites hotel in the village. But on Dec. 30, Amazon.com Services purchased 130 acres of land for $29.7 million for the project from Cottage Grove Business Development, according to the state Department of Revenue, a move first reported by the Monona-Cottage Grove Herald Independent.
The land is across the road from the 180-acre McCarthy Youth and Conservation Park, which offers camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, equestrian trails and restored prairies and wetlands. The Oaks Golf Course is less than a mile to the east of the Amazon site. Nearby and adjacent to the site are small, rural subdivisions where many residents have expressed concern about the size of the project, increased traffic and noise and light pollution.
Jeff Christy, who lives on Sylver Ridge Lane near the site, told the Village Board during a public hearing that he has concerns about stormwater runoff, effects on wells, noise control, adequate buffers, lighting and traffic, and impacts on first responders. David Stampfli, another neighbor on the street, questioned the overall appropriateness of the project on the site.
Heather McIntosh, 51, and her husband, Eric Muellenbach, 48, have lived for the past two years on Oakcrest Circle across Highway TT from the site. They purchased their home and ¾-acre property to get away from city life after living for 20 years in Chicago and another three in an apartment in Madison. The couple frequently have fox, hawks and turkey passing through and worry that the massive development will do irreparable harm to the feel and character of their property.
They want to see more studies on traffic and the impact the project could have on the environment.
“I can’t even imagine what this is going to do,” said McIntosh, a schoolteacher in Madison. “I can’t see this staying the same, and we are just one of many residents who are feeling the same way. I’m all for jobs and economic development, but can we scale it back? Does it need to be this large?”
An early OK
Land for the project has long been eyed by the village for light industrial, warehouse, office space and possibly some housing, which could have taken 20 years to fully be developed. The proposed Amazon project, which is taking about half of the land, could mean a full build-out of the property in 10 years and increasing the village’s tax base by $300 million to $400 million, Giese said. By comparison, a 160-acre commerce park on the south side of the interstate and home to Johnson Health Tech, a Culver’s and the corporate headquarters of Summit Credit Union, took about 20 years to develop. Two acres still remain open.
The Amazon project has received preliminary approval by both the Village Board and Plan Commission, but continues to work its way through the approval process. Two neighborhood Zoom meetings are scheduled for Monday for residents to comment and learn more about the project, while the Plan Commission and Village Board will vote on Feb. 16 and Feb. 21, respectively, on a precise implementation plan. Further approvals would also be needed, according to Giese.
Morgan Baer Blaska, project lead for Trammell Crow, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, but Jason Fields, CEO and president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership, said at a recent public hearing that “the community will be better with this project.” On Friday, he released a statement saying that MadREP has “a vested interest in any project that strives to bring well-paying jobs to the region.”
According to the proposal submitted to the village, the footprint of the building would cover about 650,000 square feet, be about 93 feet high and include 90,000 square feet of office space. About 95% of the truck traffic would be coming from or going to Interstate 94, while the site plan includes 60 loading docks, 326 trailer parking stalls and roughly 1,700 parking stalls for employees and visitors.
The site, according to a traffic study commissioned by Trammell Crow, expects to generate 403 trips during peak morning commuter hours between 7 and 8 a.m. Of those, 344 would be passenger vehicles and 59 would be from trucks. In the evening peak there would be 436 trips. Of those, 390 would be from passenger vehicles and 46 from trucks. The property would have two driveway access points along Highway N and two along Highway TT, according to the proposal.
Improvements to the county highways to accommodate the increased traffic load and the turns into and out of the driveways are being studied by village engineers, the county and the developer, Giese said.
“Those improvements will mitigate the large extent of those increases,” Giese said. “There’s a lot of capacity to those roads and those roundabouts that are there, so there’s plenty of capacity to add what’s coming.”