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  • Writer's pictureAndre Watson

Largest Amazon distribution center in Philadelphia now set to open this fall

Joanna Ramos (left), station manager for the new facility, and Maura Kennedy, Amazon's senior manager of economic development in the Philadelphia area.

Amazon plans to open its new distribution center in Southwest Philadelphia early this fall following a lengthy delay.

The facility at 6901 Elmwood Ave. will be Amazon's largest in Philadelphia in terms of volume and employee headcount. The company said "several hundred" people will be employed at the 140,000-square-foot warehouse and it will initially handle 20,000 to 25,000 packages per day — a number Amazon expects will increase as operations expand.

"It's a very sophisticated operation, so it does take a while to sort of ramp up. You start slow and then add capacity in increments," said Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly.

The project will have been delayed for more than nine months when it opens, if the company's current timeline holds.

"Our footprint grew significantly in 2020 and 2021," Kelly said. "Starting last year we were able to take a step back and talk about bringing greater efficiency into the network. When you bring about greater efficiency, you're concentrating on reducing customer costs. What that meant was, as we did that we did push out the launch of some of the new buildings that were in the pipeline a little bit."

In fall 2021, Amazon announced plans to add 4,800 workers in the Philadelphia area, with the Southwest Philadelphia facility being a major catalyst for the hiring push. The Seattle-based company bought the 29-acre site for $9.59 million in July 2021. Amazon will move its operations and an existing team from its South Philadelphia distribution center on Weccacoe Avenue near Christopher Columbus Boulevard to the new Elmwood Avenue facility.

The canopy stretches from the back of the facility at 6901 Elmwood Ave.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) currently has nine locations in Philadelphia, including four delivery stations like the one on Elmwood, two Amazon Hub Locker+ locations for receiving packages, one Amazon Prime Now primarily for grocery delivery, and two Whole Foods markets. In total, the company has invested some $21 billion into the state of Pennsylvania, according to Maura Kennedy, the region's senior manager for economic development. The company did not disclose the buildout cost of the new facility.

The warehouse is a last-mile distribution center, meaning many of the packages delivered in Philadelphia, Delaware County and parts of Montgomery County will make their last stop on Elmwood Avenue. The expansive warehouse spans the length of three city blocks, sitting adjacent to John Bartram High School.

The site was previously a General Electric factory that closed down in 2002, causing 226 employees to lose their jobs. It was subsequently demolished, leaving a large plot of vacant land in the middle of the residential neighborhood. There were previous plans to turn the oversized parcel into a SEPTA trolley depot, but Amazon ultimately outbid the transportation agency for the land.

From the outside, the warehouse features a gray and light blue facade, with an oversized canopy that delivery trucks will line when being loaded with packages. Though the building is completed, the interior remains largely empty. The company still needs to add conveyors, shelving, monitors, desks and signage to the facility, said Joanna Ramos, who will manage the facility.

Amazon's new Rivian delivery vans are identifiable by their light blue back panel.

Another new feature at the Southwest Philadelphia warehouse will be Amazon's new Rivian vans, which will be the first in Philadelphia. The electric vans began rolling out about a year ago as part of a goal to put a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vehicles on the road by 2030.

Of the several hundred jobs the e-commerce giant plans to bring to Southwest Philadelphia, the majority will be associate positions with pay starting at at least $16 per hour. The expected headcount does not include Amazon drivers, who are independent contractors.

Amazon will start hiring about six weeks prior to the distribution facility's opening date.

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