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Massive Alcoa, Tenn., Distribution Center Could Be for Amazon

Thu November 19, 2020 - Southeast Edition
WBIR-TV10 News

TDOT records for Project Pearl road assistance request.
TDOT records for Project Pearl road assistance request.

A huge distribution center could be coming soon to the foothills of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains.

Two entities are exploring the feasibility of constructing a warehouse distribution center on part of the former Pine Lakes Golf Course in Alcoa, Tenn.

Hillwood Investment Properties, a global development company, with offices in Atlanta and Memphis, among other cities, has partnered with the Blount Partnership, the chamber of commerce in Blount County, on the effort.

The developer has indicated construction could start as soon as early 2021, according to Jeremy Pearson, Alcoa's city planner.

Dubbed "Project Pearl", it won Alcoa Municipal/Regional Planning Commission approval in October. Going forward, staff will work with the developer as needed, Pearson said.

The force behind the distribution center hasn't been revealed, but it bears the marks of developments opened around the United States by retail giant Amazon.

State authorities declined to comment, including the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which said through a spokesperson that it does not speak on "unannounced projects."

However, the state and Gov. Bill Lee have in the past touted new Amazon projects in Tennessee.

Plans presented to the Alcoa commission in October outline a 100-ft.-tall, 634,812-sq.-ft. building on approximately 89.49 acres of land off Alcoa Highway and Singleton Station Road.

Hillwood is pitching the plan and has developed properties for Amazon and Wayfair in the past. Cannon & Cannon Inc., a consulting engineering and surveying firm, which has a Knoxville office, also is involved.

While multiple people contacted by WBIR 10News in Knoxville said they couldn't or wouldn't comment, documents offer insight into plans for the center.

The city of Alcoa applied to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in October requesting assistance with providing adequate access to the Pearl site.

"Obtaining TDOT approval for improvements to Singleton Station will clear one more hurdle for us in Hillwood's site selection process but does not guarantee that we will be their choice," Pearson said. "However, they have indicated that a decision will be forthcoming in the next few months."

According to TDOT documents obtained by 10News, the value of the property and capital improvements for the expansion is around $187.5 million, and total cost for all road updates will be more than $15 million.

Records state that the new project will create 750 jobs with an annual payroll of $23.4 million, with about 200 trucks utilizing the facility each day.

The local planning commission will soon consider a request by Blount Surveys Inc., in Maryville to replat/reconfigure two lots at Pine Lakes.

The Blount Partnership has said several businesses would be willing to fill the spot along Singleton Station, and any business of that size would be good for the area.

At least a few aspects about the Pearl site may point to Amazon building there.

The retail giant is in the middle of a massive capital plan to build distribution centers. When a plan is submitted to a city or county commission for development, Amazon often attaches a project name. For example, "Charm" was used for an Amazon distribution center in Pflugerville, Texas, near Austin.

Renderings also show distinctive blue stripes on the proposed buildings. Numerous projects that turned out to be for Amazon carry the same markings, including the facility in Pflugerville, and centers in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., and in Greenville, Wis., to name just a few.

Hillwood Properties isn't a new name to East Tennessee development proposals.

Earlier this year, the company submitted a proposal to rezone the former Knoxville Center, or East Towne Mall, off Interstate 640 from a mixed-use regional center into a light industrial zone in order to make way for an e-commerce fulfillment and distribution center.

If approved by the Knoxville City Council, Hillwood's project schedule shows demolition of the mall would begin in February, followed by construction starting in April with a projected March 2022 completion date.

The intended occupant there hasn't been named, but Amazon and Wayfair have each been viewed as possible occupants. Cannon & Cannon Inc. also is listed as a partner on this project, dubbed "Project Malibu."

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