Little Rock Approves Land Sale to Amazon in City’s Port

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Little Rock city leaders on Tuesday unanimously approved the $3.2 million sale of land in the Little Rock Port to an entity backed by Amazon, which plans to put a distribution center there.

The project is set for an 80-acre site on Zeuber Road. The Little Rock city board approved the deal at its regular meeting Tuesday evening. The Little Rock Port Authority board endorsed the sale earlier in the day.

Documents obtained by Arkansas Business show a Delaware limited liability company, PDC TN/FL LPIV, signed an agreement in October to purchase the land. The investigation period on the deal was extended in December through April 30.

Arkansas Business was first to report on Friday that Amazon would be coming to the port, building a 3 million-SF center with four levels, each about 850,000 SF.

Other news outlets, led by the Arkansas Times, previously reported Amazon’s plans to open a facility in a warehouse off Interstate 30 in Little Rock. Both projects are in addition to Amazon’s 14,760-SF facility in North Little Rock. 

The port’s executive director, Bryan Day, couldn’t name the project during the port board’s Tuesday afternoon meeting, citing confidentiality. It was referred to as “Project Diamond” on meeting documents.

But Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. revealed the project’s backer during the city board meeting, calling it a “major investment and a major deal for our city.”

“This is some good news in the midst of uncertainty,” Scott said.

Key details about the project, including total investment, jobs and a construction timelines, were withheld. Jay Chesshir, executive director of the Little Rock Regional Chamber, said the company wanted to wait until the property sale closed, which officials expected to happen in the coming days. Scott said the city would be signing documents related to the sale immediately.

During the port meeting, Day said the deal would be “a wonderful addition to the port of Little Rock with … significant jobs, significant capital investment, and we were able to generate revenues through the sale of this land which will allow us to continue acquiring land for future development.”

Day said work on the deal began “at the local level,” with the port staff, its board and the Little Rock Regional Chamber working together.

In an email to Arkansas Business, Day said the port was approached about the land purchase last fall by Jason Parker of Cushman Wakefield Sage Partners in Little Rock. At the time, the broker couldn’t reveal the client.

Parker was also involved in brokering Amazon’s North Little Rock facility.

“… [He] would not tell me who it was other than it was a national brand looking for distribution opportunities — the port was established to create jobs and we always are interested in talking with prospects,” Day wrote. “We brought the [Little Rock Regional Chamber] into the conversation and began doing our due diligence — we signed [non-disclosure agreements] and started working diligently to land the project.”

Day said he brought the board into the process and begin working with the chamber, city and Pulaski County officials. He said the Arkansas Economic Development Commission “has also been helpful and continues to be a strong partner.”

Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, an AEDC spokesman indicated the agency would share more information in the coming days.

“What I am most excited about is that the Port and Chamber worked closely together to make this a reality — it is how economic development should work and I believe will be a model for future initiatives,” Day wrote.

Little Rock’s selection as a site for more Amazon operations comes in spite of the city’s decision in 2017 not submit a bid to Amazon’s high-profile search process to become its second North American headquarters.

Instead, the city launched the “Love, Little Rock” ad campaign, through which the city told the e-commerce giant that, although it didn’t meet some of Amazon’s requirements for a headquarters, it would be a good fit for other businesses.

The ad campaign included a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and even an aerial banner that flew over Amazon’s Seattle headquarters that read, “Hey Amazon, it’s not you, it’s us.”

On Tuesday, City Director Lance Hines asked Chesshir whether the campaign helped the city land the retailer.

“Today’s a great day to love Little Rock,” Chesshir answered.

Amazon calls its tent-like North Little Rock facility a delivery station, which powers the last mile of its customer order process and helps speed deliveries for customers. The company opened that facility in 2018 on 4.5 acres owned by Norman Clifton near the intersection of Interstates 30 and 40. 

Amazon’s other project, as reported by the Arkansas Times last week, is in the former Jacuzzi plant at 12401 Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock. The company leased 247,058 SF of space.