Death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, they say. So there’s no guarantee e-retail giant Amazon will acquire the sprawling Cortana Mall this year and redevelop the site into a more than 1-million-square-foot regional distribution and fulfillment center.
But it’s safe to say the deal is moving forward and appears increasingly likely to become a reality for Baton Rouge in 2020.
Look for an announcement in the first quarter.
In late November, Amazon’s regional real estate team gave notice to proceed to local firms involved in what will be a massive design project, even as they were still finalizing deals to acquire the mall’s five anchor properties, four of which have been vacant for at least a year.
Earlier in 2019, they reached an agreement with Las Vegas-based Moonbeam Equities to acquire the center of the mall, which Moonbeam shuttered in August, after six years of unsuccessfully trying to repurpose and breathe new life into the dying dinosaur.
Though details of what’s to come are sketchy, what is known is that Amazon plans to demolish the entire structure and build an automated center to service its customers in Louisiana and southern Mississippi.
Louisiana Economic Development, which has been working hard for a couple of years to bring the deal to fruition, is remaining mum about what it’s offering to lure the company to the Capital Region. But sources say the deal includes generous incentives.
Though some in other states have been critical about the deals state and local governments give Amazon to build distribution facilities in their communities, there’s no denying the advantages the Amazon investment brings to north Baton Rouge.
For one, it will redevelop a giant, vacant—save for one remaining tenant—property in an area that badly needs an economic development boost. There aren’t many uses for the former Cortana and other potentially interested buyers have lacked the wherewithal to assemble the many pieces of property needed to make the deal happen. Cortana threatened to become a major source of blight for Airline Highway. This will alleviate that.
It will also bring upgrades to the surrounding infrastructure, investments that might not otherwise happen.
Above all, it will create hundreds of jobs with benefits packages and better-than-minimum wage pay, though the hours will be long and stressful, if the experience of other locales is any indication.
Nearby property owners are already positioning themselves to take advantage of what the deal might mean and interest is high.
No one is talking publicly about it just yet. They will be soon.