Amazon’s plans to redevelop Cortana Mall into a regional distribution and fulfillment center for its rapidly expanding e-retail empire are coming closer to fruition, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Officials with the city and state remain tight-lipped about the deal, first reported by Daily Report in August. But sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say the deal is moving forward—and anecdotal evidence supports those assertions.
On Nov. 14, the long-vacant Virginia College space was placed under contract to an undisclosed buyer, according to the Louisiana Commercial Database.
Broker Lance Ginn of Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, who represents the seller, confirms his client has a purchase agreement on the 90,000-square-foot space, though he cannot say who the buyer is, whether it’s Amazon or when the sale is scheduled to close.
Purchase agreements are being negotiated for the other anchor tenant spaces as well, sources say. One of those is the former Macy’s location, which has been listed for sale since the department store closed in 2016.
Broker Ryan Pecot of Stirling Properties, who represents the seller, confirms he is negotiating with a buyer and hopes to finalize a purchase agreement for the 225,000-square-foot space in the next few weeks.
“I know we’ve been here before,” Pecot says, referring to previous unsuccessful attempts to sell the building. “But I think this time we’ve found the highest and best use for the property.”
Pecot declines to say who the potential buyer is and whether it’s an affiliate of Amazon. He also can’t say for certain if his buyer is the same as the buyer of the Virginia College space, though he says it’s a good bet.
“I’m not privy to the other contracts and they may even be buying each parcel under separate legal names,” he says “But I have reason to believe it’s the same people, though I cannot say for sure.”
In order to finalize its plans, Amazon has to close six separate sales for the site—one for the mall interior, and one each for the five anchor tenant spaces, which are individually owned.
Though that’s a long and tedious process, sources say Amazon is confident the pieces are in place and the deals are coming together.
Once finalized, Amazon is expected to tear down the nearly one-million-square-foot mall property, which was built in 1977, and construct an automated distribution and fulfillment center of more than one million square feet.
The deal would be a major economic development win for Baton Rouge, creating jobs and returning a large vacant property in north Baton Rouge to commerce.