The giant internet retailer is looking for sites around Running Hill Road, near the Maine Mall and the Maine Turnpike.
Internet retail giant Amazon is scouting locations for a new warehouse in Scarborough, focusing on property off Running Hill Road near retail complexes around the Maine Mall and close to the Maine Turnpike, according to town officials and homeowners.
Town officials met with Amazon representatives in May and discussed plans for a warehouse, but the company has not filed a site plan or development proposal with the town, Town Manager Thomas Hall said.
“My understanding is that they are quite likely looking at multiple sites with Scarborough as one,” Hall said.
“They are doing some additional due diligence,” he added. “I have not heard the Scarborough site is no longer in contention.”
The area eyed by the company includes single-family homes, open space, woods and wetlands. It is near the area considered for the Gorham Connector, a proposed four-lane spur connecting communities west of Portland to the turnpike.
Transportation connections make the site appealing to a retail shipping company, Hall added. But there is no public sewer in the area and it is not zoned for industrial uses, which could present challenges for a warehouse at the scale considered by Amazon.
“A building of that size would require other local approvals and considerations. There is a lot to be done if they ever come forward with a proposal,” he said.
Amazon would not confirm that it is looking at the Scarborough area for a warehouse or say whether it plans any locations in the region.
“Amazon is constantly exploring new locations, and we weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers,” spokesperson Caitlin McLaughlin said. “However, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap and are not yet commenting on any specific operations in Maine.”
While Amazon has not submitted a formal proposal, it has offered some property owners in the area contracts that give the company exclusive rights to buy their land, said Jean-Marie Caterina, a town councilor who lives on Gorham Road near the site being eyed. Amazon’s scouting in the area is “the worst kept secret in Scarborough,” she said.
“I know as a councilor I am torn on this, because having an Amazon in Scarborough would be great – but I don’t think it is the right location for it,” Caterina said.
Five years ago, Scarborough put in a long-shot bid to locate Amazon’s second headquarters at Scarborough Downs, the former horse racing track now being redeveloped.
The area now under consideration for a warehouse and order center is zoned either as a mixed-use district for offices, research labs, small retail and residential uses or as a “transitional” district for small retail, business, as well as homes and apartments.
At least four developers have pitched concept plans for the area in the past eight years, said Karen Martin, executive director of the Scarborough Economic Development Corp, a quasi-municipal development body. Proposals ranged from commercial developments to housing of all types. None has materialized. Amazon’s interest in the area could fizzle in the same way.
A truck arrives at the Amazon warehouse facility on the Staten Island borough of New York, April 1, 2022. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press, File
“That is why we try not to get too excited. Until someone submits something, it is just a question mark,” Martin said.
A changing climate for the online retailer also could affect its plans. During the past few years, Amazon vastly expanded its warehousing and shipping footprint in part to feed pandemic demand.
But high costs, most notably for labor, from the expanded network, have caused Amazon to slow down plans to expand further. The company has delayed or canceled plans for at least 40 U.S. warehouses this year, according to Freightwaves, a trade publication that covers the supply chain industry. Still, Amazon plans to keep building huge, multimillion-square-foot warehouses and order fulfillment centers across the U.S., Freightwaves reported.
Whether pauses in building warehouses and shipping centers elsewhere have a bearing on potential development in Scarborough is unclear. Amazon has five fulfillment and sorting centers in Massachusetts, with another under construction and two delivery stations in New Hampshire, according to the company. Maine and Vermont are the only New England states that do not have an Amazon presence.
“Amazon is thinking very carefully about their expansion of late,” Martin said. “That is why we are not overly invested until we see an application come through. A lot can happen between then and now.”
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