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Amazon seeks aid from Delaware as plans progress for giant warehouse at former GM plant near Wilmington

A developer has applied to build a 5½-story, 3.83 million-square-foot “LogistiCenter” on a 142-acre site of a former GM auto assembly plant on Boxwood Road west of Wilmington.

Amazon plans to build a complex near Wilmington, Del.
Amazon plans to build a complex near Wilmington, Del.Read moreDreamstime File

Amazon, the delivery, warehouse and Web services giant that made $1 billion a month in after-tax profits last year, is asking Delaware for a $4.5 million state taxpayer grant “to establish its operations in Wilmington.”

The Delaware Economic Development Authority’s Council on Development Finance plans to review a brief proposal for the Delaware Strategic Fund money on Monday.

Amazon already employs more than 2,500 full-timers — plus part-time and seasonal workers — at three Delaware sites: the company’s original East Coast warehouse on Delaware Route 273 near New Castle; its truck yard, also near New Castle; and its warehouse and delivery center in Middletown. The company operates extensive warehouse networks in upstate Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Dermody Properties is the Nevada-based developer that built a one million-square-foot “LogistiCenter” for Amazon in Logan Township, Gloucester County, two years ago. It has applied to build a 5½-story, 3.83 million-square-foot LogistiCenter, with more than 900 trailer parking spaces and more than 1,900 for cars, on the 142-acre site of the former General Motors auto assembly plant on Boxwood Road west of Wilmington.

Amazon intends to occupy that center, according to two sources familiar with Amazon’s plans, who asked not to be identified because they had agreed not to talk about the project.

“Amazon is proud to call Delaware home,” and “we are constantly exploring new locations,” but “are not yet commenting on any specific operations plans in Delaware. Stay tuned,” Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in an email. She did not address a question as to why the company wanted taxpayer assistance.

The site, which Dermody purchased in stages from local developer Harvey Hanna & Associates, is served by rail lines and borders Delaware 141, a four-lane divided highway less than five miles from I-95, I-295, I-495, the Port of Wilmington, and the twin Delaware Memorial Bridge spans to the New Jersey Turnpike.

Dermody’s draft plan for the site, replacing Hanna’s proposal to build about half as much space, was filed with county officials by the Philadelphia-based Langan engineering firm in November, as noted by the Delaware Business Times, and has since been updated several times.

The company has collected economic development subsidies in a number of states, and built a string of upstate Pennsylvania warehouses — more than in any state except California — after Gov. Tom Corbett agreed not to force the company to pay sales taxes it had incurred before 2012.

General Motors laid off the last workers at the 142-acre General Motors property and shut the works in the late 2000s. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who in his six successful campaigns for a U.S. Senate seat from Delaware appealed for votes to United Auto Workers members at the plant, in 2009 returned to announce a government-funded project to turn it into an electric-car plant for Fisker Auto. That failed to materialize, costing the state $21 million and the federal government more than $150 million in useless public subsidies.

Hanna bought the derelict plant complex and spent several million dollars leveling the works. The firm filed plans to develop more than two million square feet of industrial space at the site, then sold the cleared ground to Dermody last year. The Hanna firm remains active performing “environmental remediation” at the site, company president Tom Hanna said.