A distribution hub proposed for Alcoa would be occupied by e-commerce giant Amazon, according to a legal contract signed in November by a company representative and a principal at developer Hillwood Investment Properties.

Documents obtained by The Daily Times through public records requests included a reimbursement agreement between HW Investor III LP and Amazon.com Services LLC for engineering design services on “Project Pearl” — a massive warehouse that would be built near the intersection of Alcoa Highway and Pellissippi Parkway on the site of the former Pine Lakes Golf Course.

City of Alcoa Planning and Tennessee Department of Transportation documents show the multi-level warehouse would be built on a 634,812-square-foot pad.

The reimbursement agreement discusses $4,461,400 in design, engineering, permitting, environmental and other services on “Project Pearl,” for work necessary before the warehouse’s construction. While the project’s footprint is 634,000 square feet, the warehouse in total could exceed a million square feet because the building will have multi-stories and be about 100 feet tall.

The agreement was signed on Nov. 18 by John Magness, a senior vice president and general partner for HW Investor III, and Mark Griffin, an authorized representative for Amazon.

Though the agreement does reveal Amazon to be the company that would move into Hillwood’s warehouse should the developer choose to build, it does not confirm Amazon’s commitment to the project, a decision Alcoa City Manager Mark Johnson said during an October interview may come before 2021. Johnson emailed a “no comment” to the newspaper Tuesday.

Gaining access

Alcoa public records first noted Project Pearl in October, when City Commission documents and a State Industrial Access (SIA) agreement announced the proposed warehouse would employ 750 people and involve estimated daily traffic of 200 trucks, plus employee vehicles.

According to emails and documents shared between TDOT employees from August through mid-November — also obtained by The Daily Times through a public records request — Hillwood-contracted engineers, Alcoa officials, local and state-level chambers of commerce and others have been trying to figure out a smooth highway access plan for the warehouse.

Hillwood’s interest in building a bustling Amazon hub complicates in some ways TDOT’s long-planned Alcoa Highway relocation project.

The relocation would involve a new intersection with Pellissippi Parkway just north of Cusick Road. That’s almost directly on top of the old 85-acre Pine Lakes Golf Course, where Hillwood wants to build.

Questions about how to give the warehouse effective north and southbound access to Alcoa Highway abound in TDOT emails. Correspondence indicates department personnel worked closely with Knoxville-based Cannon & Cannon engineers — contracted by Hillwood — to come up with both permanent and temporary highway access plans for the warehouse.

State, city costs

Though documents pertaining to the warehouse originally indicated it would be 823,173 square feet of “rentable space,” that size was adjusted after conversations with local leaders.

TDOT’s SIA agreement states the warehouse would cost an estimated $187.5 million to build and generate an annual payroll of $23.4 million — with average hourly wages of $15.

Because the city and state would need to improve roads in the area surrounding the site, Alcoa may have to commit more than $3.25 million in right-of-way and utility expenses.

TDOT would end up paying nearly $13 million just for roadwork to support the warehouse.

Documents indicate the project is supposed to be complete by May 2022.

The Daily Times on Tuesday reached out to leaders and communications personnel with the Blount Partnership, the city of Alcoa, Hillwood and Amazon. Many had previously declined to comment on the warehouse project and most did not return calls by press time Tuesday.

Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter for more from city government reporter Andrew Jones.

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