Developer Tom Rankin discusses the Amazon deal with SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson, right.
Heather Mosley | SBJ
Developer Tom Rankin discusses the Amazon deal with SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson, right.

Insider looks back at Amazon deal in Republic

Posted online

Commercial developer and property broker Tom Rankin this morning shared inside knowledge of the deal that brought e-commerce retailer Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) to the market.

Rankin, who represented Drury University in selling the land for the development, was interviewed at Hilton Garden Inn by Springfield Business Journal Editorial Vice President Eric Olson for the 12 People You Need to Know series.

The owner of Rankin Development LLC said the 1.3 million-square-foot distribution and fulfillment center at 3200 E. Sawyer Road in Republic is slated to open Aug. 1.

"It's mind-boggling," Rankin said of the 10-month buildout. "The speed at which they work is just crazy."

Kansas City-based The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. is serving as general contractor for the project designed by St. Louis-based M & H Architects. A state zoning application puts the estimated cost at $25 million, according to past reporting.

Before the project began, Rankin was contacted in fall 2019 by a St. Louis-area broker working on behalf of Amazon. Rankin didn't know who the tenant was at first, but at 1 million square feet and hints of Seattle origins, he put the pieces together.

"I was fortunate to have a property listed," he said. "It just came to us.

"I never would have dreamed that big."

Rankin said this morning property negotiations began last summer, and Drury sold the nearly 134-acre parcel in November 2020, according to past reporting.

Rankin said Amazon putting down roots in Republic represents a greater trend: development interest moving west of Springfield.

"They love the location," he said of Amazon, noting company officials shared with him that working with a smaller community can be advantageous because they "can be more nimble."

He added, "They've been very pleased.”

Amazon has accelerated growth in the corridor, Rankin said. A large-scale Convoy of Hope distribution center already was is in the works in Republic prior to Amazon, and he said developer Randy Magers is building a mixed-use apartment and retail center kitty-corner to the Amazon site.

"When you plop something like Amazon in the landscape, it changes things," he said, pointing to increased opportunities for housing developments as projects bring jobs to the area.

Rankin said Republic represents a growth area because of its amount of undeveloped land and proximity to major roadways. Rankin estimated the area has seen a couple hundred millions of dollars' worth of investment in the past few years.

"The trend has been west," he said. “All four corners of James River Freeway and MM have been spoken for.”