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Residents Start Rejecting Philly Warehouses After Amazon Boom

Some Philly-area suburbanites are pushing back against the construction of new warehouses in the wake of hundreds of such buildings being built since 2020.

An Amazon warehouse in Colorado

The Philadelphia metro region has tallied up a total of 188 warehouses larger than 20K SF, most built within the last four years and led by Amazon, according to an in-depth report from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now, residents appear to be reaching a breaking point. Since last year alone, locals in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey have successfully shut down or stalled at least 8.4M SF of planned warehouse space, citing traffic, environmental concerns and neighborhood blight, according to the report.

Two warehouse projects planned for a former farm off of Interstate 95 in Burlington County, New Jersey, are a case in point. The planned buildings totaling 3.4M SF are stuck in litigation, according to their local mayor, Kristan Marter. She was elected to office on a platform of minimizing truck encounters with bicycle riders on shared roads around the area.

“We’re just trying to calm it down,” Marter said, citing the pace of new buildings being constructed.

In Pennsylvania’s Salem County, a 5M SF project by Knightowl Holdings to add nine warehouses was rejected last June after protests by locals in Oldmans Township. Voters were concerned that warehouses harm residential views and quiet, in addition to increasing traffic. 

The influx of Philadelphia-area warehouses began when Amazon and other online retailers revved up in the region amid the pandemic. The area was sought after since anything built near Exit 6A off of the nearby New Jersey Turnpike can potentially serve 27 million people living within a two-hour drive of the exit, according to the Inquirer.

“While debt was cheap, there was a big outlay of new construction projects [and at the same time] it looked like supply almost was never going to catch up with demand,” Adam Gorodesky, vice president of Colliers’ industrial brokerage for the Philadelphia area, told the publication.

Philadelphia is adding the fifth-largest amount of new manufacturing space among the 20 largest metros in the nation, Bisnow reported this week.

But in addition to traffic and other concerns, residents are raising alarms about environmental impacts.

Local nonprofit Clean Air Council is monitoring urban proposals, including Hilco Redevelopment Partners' plan for the Bellwether District project. The developer plans to reuse hundreds of acres that once housed the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery for industrial and other space.

That project plans to open more than 1M SF of industrial space by the first quarter of 2025, according to the project’s website.

“This is an area that’s been closed off to the city and most of the citizens of Philadelphia for over 100 years,” Hilco Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Amelia Chassé Alcivar said. “We’re going to be reconnecting the land into the city, and facilitating economic and social mobility for the surrounding neighborhoods.”

However, that sort of project runs counter to the City of Philadelphia’s environmental goals, Clean Air Council advocate Russell Zerbo said. Such developments cause heat islands, neighborhoods where a lack of trees causes temperatures to rise by as much as 20 degrees over comparable districts.

“Not only does the city need green space to calm the heat island effect, but it needs to provide places for people to go, and that includes green spaces along our riverfronts,” Zerbo told the Inquirer.