PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The road bringing Amazon to Woodburn has seen a lot of changes over the years, both figuratively and literally.
Those changes will be accelerating in the coming weeks and months as the company kicks into its work on a timeline that envisions the 5-story, 3.85 million-square-foot fulfillment center on 90 acres of west Woodburn industrial land, opening in the spring of 2023.
On the heels of the Woodburn Planning Commission’s Sept. 22 nod of approval to the project, Woodburn Community Development Director Chris Kerr apprised city officials of not only the hearings and variances paving way for Amazon, but crucial groundwork that enabled this to come to fruition long before Amazon was even in the game.
Anyone who has driven by or around that portion of Butteville Road near its Highway 219 intersection can’t help but to notice the massive movement of dirt and the towering construction infrastructure assemblages recently erected.
Going forward this month will be a focus on footings and foundations, which involves ample concrete work, enough so that construction plans call for mixing the concrete on-site rather than having concrete trucks rolling into the worksite hourly.
Vertical construction is expected to begin in January, and the following March plans are to move forward with the off-site construction, the centerpiece for which is a roundabout to direct traffic from Newberg Highway and Butteville Road, replacing the current, awkward, limited-visibility intersection.
Kerr said the roundabout will be the domino that triggers the rest of the project plans falling into place.
“This was certainly the biggest issue that was the hindrance of developing this site,” Kerr told the Woodburn City Council on Sept. 27.
The Amazon building will face west and have four driveways, all entering and exiting from Butteville Road. The road’s current nearby intersection with Highway 219 is tricky, especially for westbound traffic from 219 turning onto Butteville, which provides hazardously limited visibility as 219 curves north.
The roundabout will ultimately move that route, as plans are for Amazon to make the necessary changes on its land, rerouting Butteville Road slightly east where it will build the $9-$10 million roundabout to provide for a more seamless traffic flow in all directions of the two roads’ intersection.
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That’s the road change looking forward. But looking back Kerr pointed out the major improvements, costing roughly $70 million, at the I-5 interchange that took place to make any of this plausible today. Woodburn contributed about $8 million to that project.
Other changes that enabled this included Woodburn’s 2016 urban growth boundary expansion, targeting this land for large-lot, high-employment industrial users. The city annexed the land a year later.
The city also modified its long-range comprehensive plan, transportation systems plan, public utility plan and zoning codes. Those moved forward on a vision that city officials call the Southwest Industrial Reserve (SWIR), details for which recently fell into place more clearly when Amazon became interested.
“The city has really done a lot of groundwork in anticipation of this property being developed,” Kerr told the Woodburn City Council.
“I know it sounds strange, I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s very odd to see long-range plans sort of align with the development that actually walks in the door â€“ almost exactly what you are looking for. And I’m glad to see it happen.”
Amazon, which currently employs around 13,000 people in Oregon, announced its plans to build in Woodburn last June. Company officials originally anticipated that the facility would provide about 1,500 full-time jobs to employees who will pick, pack and ship orders to customers living in the general region. More recent estimates indicate two shifts, with about 937 workers in each shift.
“We’re excited to open a new, state-of-the-art fulfillment center in the city of Woodburn,” Amazon’s Vice President of Global Customer Fulfillment Alicia Boler Davis said. “Woodburn and surrounding communities in Marion County offer a talented workforce, and we look forward to growing employment beyond the more than 13,000 employees already serving customers in the region.”
When the project was announced, Woodburn City Manager Scott Derickson articulated what Kerr illustrated in his Sept. 27 presentation.
“Woodburn has been planning for significant residential and industrial development projects that will enhance the community for many years,” Derickson said. “We are excited to see that investments the city has made in expanding the urban growth boundary, completing transportation system improvements and expanding access to affordable housing are now beginning to attract the private sector capital necessary to develop projects that provide economic stability and significant employment opportunities for Woodburn residents.”
One of the variances to city code afforded by the city planning commission involved vegetation. Kerr noted that Amazon will adorn the roadway accessing the five-story building with a large-size canopy trees, 1 per 30 feet, a minimum of three different species, of which at least one must be coniferous/evergreen. Provisions are for additional shrubbery as well, creating an enhanced landscape condition.
Other conditions of approval included sidewalks, traffic studies, transit service to the SWIR, intersection improvements at Butteville and Parr roads and special arrangements addressing driveway access for residents of the area.