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Everything Store Becomes Everywhere Store

An Amazon warehouse near Bretigny-sur-Orge, France.

An Amazon warehouse near Bretigny-sur-Orge, France.
Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP (Getty Images)

Ready for Amazon to get even more ubiquitous in your day to day life? The e-commerce giant is planning on opening 1,000 to 1,500 small distribution hubs in suburban areas across the country,

Bloomberg wrote that Amazon may choose to assimilate real estate made available by retailers who it has helped drive out of business or otherwise shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic. The news agency’s sources said that was a “last resort” plan, but that Amazon was more likely to raze the buildings to the ground and start anew than try and convert malls into warehouses:

… That option is only a last resort, said the people privy to the company’s plans, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter.

Department stores such as J.C. Penney are often two stories and lack sufficient loading capacity, they said, meaning they require extensive remodeling to accommodate an Amazon delivery hub. Moreover, mall leases with existing tenants often prohibit the owner from introducing a delivery hub that could spoil the shopping experience, and city officials might not quickly approve an industrial use in a retail area. It’s more likely that dead malls will be bulldozed to make way for an Amazon warehouse, as they have in the Midwest, than for an Amazon delivery station to sprout in a half-vacant mall to coexist with Kay Jewelers and Cinnabon.

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Kearny, New Jersey Mayor Alberto Santos told the news agency he had noticed a “weird gentrification effect” in which Amazon “[keeps] picking up sites, which drives up prices for everyone else.” That in turn drives warehouses belonging to small businesses further from residential areas, Santos said.

“Regulation is definitely flat-footed right now,” University of Oregon architecture professor and urban land use expert Nico Larco told Bloomberg. “The warehouse doesn’t want to be tucked away in an industrial district any more. It wants to be right next to you. But when these things come to our neighborhoods, they’re unsightly.”

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