Amazon to Sell Bay Area Office Complex as Sales Growth Cools

The Amazon logo
The Amazon logo outside the company's fulfillment center in Sydney, Australia. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg News)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.] Inc. is selling a vacant Bay Area office complex purchased about 16 months ago, the company’s latest effort to unwind a pandemic-era expansion that left it with a surfeit of warehouses and employees.

Amazon in October 2021 paid $123 million for the 29-acre property in Milpitas, Calif., part of a strategy to lock up real estate near big cities that could be used for new warehouses and facilitate future growth.

The Metro Corporate Center is now in contract with a commercial real estate developer, according to three people familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to discuss the deal publicly. One of the people said Amazon is likely to take a loss on the sale. Another person said the final sale price is still being negotiated.

The Bay Area’s office market has been hit hard over the past two years, as companies pivoted to remote work and gave up real estate to cut costs. Nearly one-fifth of the office market is vacant, according to a fourth-quarter report from CBRE Group Inc. Amazon was likely planning to replace the office complex with delivery facilities, but such development has been stalled across the region owing to new municipal regulations and growing building costs.

“We’re always evaluating our network to make sure it fits our business needs,” Amazon spokesman Steve Kelly said in a statement. “As part of this effort, we’ve made the decision to explore selling the Metro Corporate Center site. We’re happy to remain part of the local community and will continue to deliver for customers from our two delivery stations in Milpitas.”

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Amazon’s decision to sell the property underscores the risks of a new real estate strategy the company has embraced in recent years. Bloomberg News reported last year that the company was quietly buying property across the U.S. The real estate included existing buildings and bare land that the company planned to use for a new generation of fulfillment centers that it would develop itself. Previously Amazon had relied on developers to find property and build the facilities.

When online sales growth began slowing last year, Amazon started pulling back on its property strategy, pausing development of a 193-acre parcel outside Austin, Texas. Now, with the Bay Area sale, the Seattle-based company has begun offloading properties, suggesting executives expect sluggish growth to endure.

Amazon continues to open new facilities — including warehouses in Omaha, Neb., and Sioux Falls, S.D., earlier in January — but at a more measured pace than during the pandemic when it needed all the space it could find.

Amazon last year began its biggest-ever round of job cuts that will ultimately affect 18,000 workers around the globe. The world’s largest e-commerce company, which is scheduled to report earnings on Feb. 2, warned investors that fourth-quarter sales growth would be the slowest in its history. Inc. ranks No. 19 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

With assistance from Natalie Wong.

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