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July 20, 2017 2:15 PM, EDT
Amazon Fulfillment Center Planned Near Cleveland, on Former Mall Site
Amazon warehouse Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News

An Amazon.com fulfillment center could bring more than 1,200 jobs to the long-ailing village of North Randall, Ohio.

Across the country, the e-commerce giant is disrupting the traditional retail business and contributing to shopping malls’ struggles. In Northeast Ohio, though, Amazon is literally replacing them. The North Randall project, an 855,000-square-foot building, would occupy approximately 69 acres of the former Randall Park Mall site.

The project popped up on the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority board’s agenda on July 20. The board approved a request to provide up to $123 million worth of bond financing for the project, which could open during the second half of 2018.

“This is part of our ever-growing network,” Eric Murray, senior manager of economic development for Amazon, said during the meeting. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to consider Northeast Ohio. ... We’ve had tremendous support.”

Seefried Industrial Properties, Inc., a Georgia-based developer that has worked on other projects for Amazon, has a contract to buy the North Randall site, David Riefe, the company’s senior vice president for the Midwest, said during the July 20 port board meeting. The properties belong to multiple owners today.

The developer plans to raze the existing buildings - a shuttered Burlington Coat Factory store, a closed automotive-maintenance facility and a former department store occupied by Ohio Technical College’s PowerSport Institute, which would relocate.

Seefried expects to construct a $177 million facility and lease it to Amazon, which has more than 70 such fulfillment centers across the country. Murray said that North Randall is vying against other, out-of-town sites for the project, which would include 2,600 parking spaces, 64 truck docks and parking for 200 trailers.

Employees at the facility would earn “very competitive” salaries, Murray said, though he wouldn’t provide numbers. The jobs would include healthcare, dental care, access to a 401(k) retirement-savings plan and other benefits, he added.

David Smith, North Randall’s longtime mayor, expressed cautious optimism during an interview after the July 20 port board meeting. He stressed that the fulfillment-center deal is far from done.

“It’s the biggest development, I think - the potential for the biggest development - since I’ve been in office,” he said. “When the demolition of the mall site started, we anticipated having the opportunity to have this type of development. We’re just hoping that it is completed.”

The workforce at the Amazon facility would surpass North Randall’s population of roughly 1,100 people. But the employment would be a fraction of the estimated 5,000 or so people who worked at the mall in its heyday.

Randall Park Mall closed in 2009. Bargain-focused developers Stuart Lichter and Chris Semarjian eventually acquired much of the property and started razing the central mall building in late 2014. They’ve been marketing the sprawling site, near Interstates 480 and 271, as an industrial park.

Smith said the village doesn’t have cash to put into the Amazon deal. But the village could grant partial property-tax abatement for the new building.

“If we’re fortunate to receive this project, that has been a topic of discussion,” he said. “I’m not sure what we’re going to end up at, but we are going to be amenable to as much as we can grant.”

Documents distributed at the port board meeting also mentioned a state grant that, along with private money from investors, could round out the funding package.

The Plain Dealer reported in May that Seefried also has a deal to buy the shuttered Euclid Square Mall in Euclid for another large, industrial project. The developer won’t identify its tenant or tenants. On July 20, Riefe said the projects aren’t mutually exclusive. The North Randall deal doesn’t impact Seefried’s plans in Euclid.

Riefe wouldn’t say whether both buildings are being designed for Amazon, which has a huge appetite for space and a penchant for secrecy when it comes to real estate.

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