Construction is underway of the fulfillment center in Bondurant. Photo by Duane Tinkey

Amazon.com’s announcement Thursday that it will open a fulfillment center in Bondurant comes 15 days after a Texas-based entity paid $60.8 million for property where the center is under construction, real estate transaction records show.

Grant Street Project LLC, which Iowa Secretary of State records show is based in Dallas, Texas, on Jan. 22 bought land in Bondurant owned by Ryan Companies US Inc., Polk County records show. The limited liability company is owned by Hillwood, a Perot-family company that bills itself as among the top industrial, commercial and residential real estate developers in the United States.

Ryan Companies in October paid 14 Bondurant landowners more than $6.7 million for 169 acres at 500 32nd St. S.W., east of U.S. Highway 65. The Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies is overseeing construction of the Amazon project, valued at more than $295 million.

An official with Ryan Companies approached Bondurant city officials in fall 2019, Bondurant Mayor Curt Sullivan told the Business Record. “To hear that this type of development and this company was wanting to invest in our community, it was a game-changer for a community of our size,” he said.

Bondurant, with a population of about 6,200, is preparing for additional development to follow Amazon, Sullivan said.

“We’re looking at where other similar fulfillment centers have been built and talking with those communities about what has occurred,” he said. “We fully expect additional development to occur. It could be other support-service type of facilities, more housing.

“Right now, we’re doing some research just to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place to support additional development,” he said.

In its announcement, Amazon.com said it would open its first Iowa fulfillment center in a 645,000-square-foot facility that would employ 1,000 workers. The facility is expected to open by late 2020, the release said. Employees will work “alongside Amazon robotics to pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and toys,” the release said.

Workers will be paid a minimum $15 an hour and receive benefits that include health and dental insurance and a 401(k) that has a 50% company match, Amazon's release said.

“Amazon provides a living wage with full benefits to workers,” said Alex Lynch, executive director of East Polk Innovation Collaborative. “They will pay for four years of schooling. They want to see their employees continue to grow even if they don’t continue to stay and work for them.”

The announcement that Amazon was locating a fulfillment center in Bondurant has been anticipated for months.

The Bondurant City Council in September approved the site plan for the project, dubbed “Project Bluejay.” In October, the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission approved a RISE (Revitalize Iowa’s Sound Economy) grant of up to 60% of the eligible costs to make improvements to 32nd Street S.W. and Grant Street S. The estimated cost of the improvements is more than $12 million.

In early December, Bondurant issued a building permit for the project to Ryan Companies. The building permit cost $1.4 million.

The Seattle-based online retailer has been aggressively opening fulfillment and distribution centers for more than a decade, either through leasing space or building new facilities. This week, for example, announcements were made in Texas and Indiana that Amazon was either building or leasing nearly 2 million square feet of warehouse space.

According to data compiled by  MWPVL International, Amazon has 339 fulfillment centers and delivery stations in the United States occupying nearly 139 million square feet of space. The company’s plans include 94 other fulfillment centers and delivery stations that would fill 39 million square feet of space.  Orders are filled in fulfillment centers; delivery stations are the final stop for an order before being delivered to customers.

In November, Amazon announced it was opening a delivery station in Grimes. The company also plans to open a delivery station in Iowa City, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Amazon is leasing the 346,062-square-foot former Procter & Gamble distribution center in southeast Iowa City. It also operates an 18,000-square-foot delivery station that opened in 2018 in North Liberty.

It's not known whether Amazon will own the Bondurant fulfillment center or lease space in it. Officials with Amazon and Hillwood have not responded to requests for information about the January real estate transaction.

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