Amazon hopes to open 'cutting-edge' Barrhaven warehouse 'as quickly as possible'

E-commerce giant targets 2021 launch date for multi-level distribution centre
Amazon box
Photo by Mike Seyfang/Flickr

Amazon’s new warehouse in Barrhaven slated to open next year will include multiple levels and feature “cutting-edge” robotics technology to move merchandise, the e-commerce giant said Thursday.

The new facility, which is being built by Montreal-based Broccolini, will have a footprint of 450,000 square feet. Site plans filed by Broccolini last month indicated the building will be five floors and occupy a total of 2.7 million square feet.

Amazon’s director of Canadian customer fulfilment operations, Sumegha Kumar, would not confirm the number of floors in the new fulfilment centre, saying only it will have multiple levels.

“We’re still in the works of finalizing our plans,” she said in an interview with OBJ. 

Kumar said the new warehouse in the Citigate Business Park, just east of the intersection of Strandherd Drive and Highway 416, will create more than 1,000 full-time jobs. It will be the company’s eighth such distribution centre in Ontario and second in the National Capital Region after a one-million-square-foot warehouse on Boundary Road in southeast Ottawa that opened last year.

Construction under way

Kumar said the building will make extensive use of “cutting-edge” robotics devices to transport and pack smaller items such as electronics, books, DVDs and toys. The existing Boundary Road facility stores and ships larger merchandise.

Heavy machinery is already at work on the 64-acre Barrhaven site located near a Costco store in the Citigate plaza, and Kumar confirmed the construction process is under way. Broccolini executive James Beach said Tuesday the contractor is aiming to have the building completed by the fall of 2021, with an expected price tag of more than $200 million. Kumar would not provide any further details on Thursday.

“We are working hard towards making this happen as quickly as possible,” she said. “As we get closer and complete all of the construction timelines and all of the other nuances in the facility, we will finalize our launch date.”

Amazon considers a “lot of different factors” when choosing a location for a warehouse, Kumar said, including its proximity to major transportation arteries and population centres as well as the size and quality of the labour pool in the surrounding area. She said the Barrhaven site checked off all the key boxes on the company’s list. 

Kumar said it’s still not certain what geographic area the new distribution centre will serve.

“Our business will continue to grow between this year and next year, so we will continue to see how economically … and how quickly we can get (merchandise) to our customers with different modes of transportation,” she said.

While other Ontario cities are already home to large-scale distribution centres – Walmart, for example, has a pair of 1.5-million-square-feet logistics facilities in Cornwall – few other construction projects in Ottawa history could even compare to the scope of the new proposal. The new building would have a larger footprint than the 2.23-million-square-foot former Nortel campus on Carling Avenue, which is now home to the Department of National Defence.

Meanwhile, other major industrial projects are also on the drawing board for the capital region.

Broccolini wants to build a 700,000-square-foot warehouse in North Gower, a project that’s now under review from the province’s Local Appeal Planning Tribunal after it was approved by council last December. In addition, local developer Avenue31 recently filed plans to construct six office and industrial buildings totalling one million square feet on 100 acres of NCC-owned land near the corner of Hunt Club Road and Hwy. 417.

CBRE Ottawa broker Shawn Hamilton recently told OBJ that the National Capital Region’s location just a few hours’ drive from both the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal is a major selling point. 

He said the Ottawa area is drawing the attention of more and more e-commerce companies looking to satisfy growing consumer demand for same-day deliveries to Canada’s two largest urban centres.

“Once you get a few (distribution facilities), you create a critical mass, and then people start to recognize the value of Ottawa’s location,” he said. “You will see more of these coming to Ottawa. I am convinced of that.”