Online retail giant Amazon has its eyes on the new 340,000-square-foot warehouse on Princess Road, and has submitted an application to Lawrence Township to turn the site into a “last-mile” delivery hub.
The warehouse at 10 Princess Road would be almost a 24/7 facility, with trucks arriving late at night and shifts running from 2 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. According to the application, the hub would open by 2022, and serve Amazon customers within a 45-minute drive of the facility.
(Disclosure: This website’s parent company, Community News Service, is headquartered at 15 Princess Road, adjacent to the 10 Princess Road warehouse.)
The proposal anticipates 250 workers at the site, with increased hiring during peak periods. Of the people working there, 70 would have Amazon associate jobs, with 150 “delivery partner” drivers and managers and 30 Amazon Flex jobs (independent contractors that set their own schedule and use their own vehicles to deliver packages).
Amazon anticipates the facility would receive deliveries from 12 tractor trailers daily, arriving during “overnight hours.” The packages would then be offloaded, sorted and prepared for dispatch by first-shift employees who would work in the early morning and finish their shift around 12:30 p.m.
Delivery drivers would arrive at the site around 9 a.m., with 114 delivery vans being loaded and dispatched—in groups no larger than 48—at 20-minute intervals between 10 and 11:15 a.m. The vans would then return to Princess Road between 7 and 9 p.m., and the drivers leaving for the day in their personal vehicles.
Amazon Flex drivers, meanwhile, would arrive during the evening rush hour—between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.—but do not return to the facility once they complete their routes.
Despite painting a picture of a bustling facility in its proposal, Amazon said the Princess Road facility won’t be like the fulfillment centers that often make headlines. Amazon’s fulfillment center in Robbinsville, for example, is three times the size of the proposed Lawrence last-mile hub.
“It is important to understand that this delivery station is very different, and indeed, much smaller than the larger Amazon Fulfillment Centers that are often on the news,” the application says. “What is proposed here is a last mile delivery station, which is smaller in nature and is the last stop between purchasing a product on Amazon and having it delivered to an individual’s home.”
Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Amazon’s engineer on the project, said in a Sept. 30 letter to the township that it was unable to do a traffic study on the area, due to the pandemic. Instead, it used a 2018 study completed during the warehouse’s initial approval process. It estimated an annual 1% growth in traffic to estimate numbers for 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Langan projected most of the traffic from the facility to head to Princeton Pike, 64% of departing vehicles heading north on the road toward the Interstate 295 interchange and Princeton. Arriving traffic will be more dispersed, but Langan estimates 75% will access Princess Road via Princeton Pike.
“We expect area traffic operations will not significantly change because of the proposed delivery station,” Langan principal Daniel D. Disario wrote in his Sept. 30 report to the Lawrence Township planning board.
The planning board unanimously approved a warehouse at the site two years ago during its Dec. 3, 2018 meeting. Construction started in the summer 2019. The developer built the warehouse on-spec, meaning PSIP Metrix Princess Road LLC did not have a tenant on hand when it started the project. The facility is located at the bend on Princess Road, near the former site of Hub Distributing.
Potential traffic implications of a new warehouse worried residents in the area from the start, particularly concern over noise and diesel exhaust pollution that could accompany increased truck traffic.
There are a number of residential developments along Princess Road, near its intersection with Franklin Corner Road. Residents in the Gatherings at Lawrenceville, a 55-plus community that is the nearest development to the Princess Road warehouse, expressed their concerns at a number of planning board meetings in 2018, citing past problems with trucks in their community generated by existing businesses on Princess Road.
The Gatherings sued the planning board after it approved the facility’s application in December 2018, but later withdrew the suit.
One of the township’s conditions to approving the warehouse was that trucks would not be allowed to access or leave the facility through the residential portion of Princess Road. Langan’s traffic evaluation includes traffic coming and going from Franklin Corner Road, most likely because the vast majority of vehicles using the facility will be delivery vans or employees’ personal vehicles. Neither of those were included in the initial traffic stipulation.
Township manager Kevin Nerwinski said in 2019 that the township would consider closing Princess Road off from Franklin Corner Road in order to prevent trucks from the new warehouse from traveling through the neighborhood. The township would then study the impact of the road closure. In this case, the only access to any of the commercial buildings on Princess Road would come from Princeton Pike.
This is still being discussed, municipal engineer James Parvesse said, but it’s unclear right now how the Amazon proposal would impact the decision.