SEABROOK – Following the announcement of plans of a proposed fulfillment center near Upper Marlboro being nixed, online retailer Amazon confirmed that they were the company that was perusing the project on the land development on the Westphalia Town Center.
Regional Manager of External Communications Rachael Lighty said that Amazon was exploring the idea of coming to Prince George’s County as part of its growing investments in the state. Their identity remained private because of the no lease agreement signed with the landowners.
“Amazon is a dynamic business, and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve our customers. As such, we are no longer exploring opportunities for growth in Prince George’s County,” Lighty said. “Maryland has been a great place to do business. We appreciate the time and attention to this potential project by the town of Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County and state officials through this preliminary process and introductory meetings.”
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced on Aug. 23 that the planned fulfillment center in Westphalia Town Center was no longer happening after meeting with company officials. The proposed announcement of the Westphalia/Amazon project drew a lot of pushback from residents who felt lied to about the plans for the proposed property.
“To those who purchased homes at Westphalia and were promised certain things, I want you to know that my administration will work with the developer to help bring the retail, dining and other amenities you were promised,” Alsobrooks said. “Prince George’s County is open for business, and we will continue working to attract quality businesses to the county that add value to our economy and provide amenities to our citizens.”
Walton Development and Management are the landowners for the Westphalia property and contracted Duke Realty to find tenants for the mixed-use and retail portions. Redesignated as a dense, suburban town center which would be more car-accessible, Walton began constructing and selling houses on the property, where residents currently live on today.
However, over the summer, news emerged that Walton and Duke Realty submitted plans to the county planning board to include an 80-foot, five-story fulfillment and distribution center that would have taken about 78 acres in space. In their plan presentation, officials said the center would have reduced traffic by 88% and be the “catalyst for retail development” in the area.
It would have become Amazon’s fourth location in the state, with locations already in Baltimore, North East and Sparrows Point.
In meetings with residents, developers assured residents that retail would still come to the area even with the creation of the fulfillment center. However, during a July 18 planning board meeting, residents pushed back on the plans of accepting a change on the site plans.
“Many people bought properties anticipating the convenience of shopping, dining, etc. and now they feel bamboozled,” resident Deborah Alston said. “Once again, we have been disregarded and minimized. The same thing happened to Beechtree on Rt. 301 in Prince George’s County. They were promised shopping, dining, etc. too and all these years later, nothing.”
Ultimately, the planning board voted to approve the change and sent it over to the Prince George’s County Council to change the zoning for the project to get the planned fulfillment center started. In a statement, the council said that they had no comment in regards to the changing of the zoning until the applications are formally withdrawn.
“The County Council, in its role as the county’s zoning authority, was looking forward to public hearings on the pending development applications for the planned Merchandise Logistics Center at Westphalia, and an important opportunity to address concerns expressed by residents and other stakeholders,” they said. “The council will continue to work with the county executive, and with the communities, we represent to ensure economic development and the increased services and amenities it brings, flourishes throughout our county.”
This was the second effort that Prince George’s County has attempted to bring in the online retailer as part of its push for growing development. They submitted four sites as part of their Amazon HQ2 bid in 2018, all of which were close to Metro stations.
However, the county did not make the final cut and ultimately lost to Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia and Queens, New York. When plans for the Queens headquarters fell through, the county expressed interest again until the retailer put the other HQ2 plans on hold indefinitely. Alsobrooks said that she intends to work with Amazon to find different locations in the county that will be suitable for the center.
The 4-million-square-foot warehouse would have been a prime location for Amazon and planned to bring in new jobs to the county, according to Walton Global Holdings’ Executive Vice President Edward R. Fleming.
“In spite of this extremely disappointing news for Prince George’s county, we still believe that this is the best site for the logistics center, which would have brought 1,800 direct jobs and hundreds of indirect jobs to this County-approved site,” Fleming said. “We will still move forward in partnership with Duke Realty as we assess all options for the future of Westphalia Town Center.”
Fleming did not address what the plans for the site are moving forward or possible meetings concerning the future of the center. Duke Realty did not return multiple requests for comment.