The gist: Tech giant Amazon has set its sights on the remaining portion of the old Evangeline Downs property in Carencro for an expansive fulfillment center with the potential to create hundreds of jobs for Lafayette Parish, according to sources with knowledge of the project.
No one is talking publicly yet. Citing a confidentiality agreement, the NE Evangeline Thruway site’s owner, local real estate investor Carrol Castille, declined to discuss any specifics of a potential property sale. “I’m under a confidentiality agreement with a large land purchaser,” Castille tells The Current. “I have not seen one document with Amazon’s name on it.”
Plans for a fulfillment center in Baton Rouge fell apart earlier this year. The widely reported deal for space at the old Cortana Mall site fell apart earlier this year after the developer failed to assemble the needed properties. One property owner told The Advocate he was about 30 days from completing a sale when the buyer pulled back.
“They said they couldn’t get a couple other property owners to come to an agreement on a reasonable price, Wilson LaFoe, owner of Jackson, Miss.-based DL Investments LLC, told the newspaper. “It would have been an incredible opportunity for Cortana.
Fulfillment centers bring massive job numbers and often hazardous work. Confirmed reports of recent Amazon fulfillment center placements in Clay, N.Y., Beaumont, Calif., and Pflugerville, Texas, boast 1,000 jobs on the deals. Work at fulfillment centers has been said to be grueling. An investigative report found an “injury crisis” within the tech giant’s 250,000-strong warehouse workforce. In 2019 alone, Amazon recorded 14,000 workplace injuries, according to documents obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, with the highest rates at sites that heavily rely on robots.
The behemoth online retailer, which has operated a tent-like delivery facility in Baton Rouge since 2018, confirmed in August that Amazon Logistics, one of its subsidiaries, had signed a lease for a delivery station that has been under construction in the city’s Industriplex development near Siegen Lane and Reiger Road. The 112,000-square-foot distribution center should open before the end of the year, The Advocate reported.
According to The Advocate, Amazon typically builds two types of facilities in markets where it aims to speed up delivery to customers. One is a large-scale warehouse, or “fulfillment center,” like the one purportedly planned for Lafayette, and the other is a distribution center or “delivery station,” the type set to open in Baton Rouge. (Read how Amazon explains its fulfillment centers here.)
The project would be massive. Amazon fulfillment centers can be upwards of 1 million square feet. Should this facility come to fruition, it would join the 236,000-square-foot FedEx Ground distribution center at the same site — a prime strategic location due to its proximity to both I-49 (which is Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette) and I-10. Sources tell The Current area companies are already bidding on basic site work and utilities for the project.
Encompassing much of what was the Evangeline Training Center, which shut down more than two years ago, the property is located to the east of FedEx. It is approximately 120 acres and includes two ponds, Castille confirms. One pond is five acres and the other is 2.5 acres, according to Lafayette Parish Tax Assessor records.
Citing company policy, Seattle-based Amazon would not comment for this story. “We have a longstanding practice of not commenting on rumors or speculation,” Amazon spokesman Owen Torres told The Current in an emailed response.
Carencro Mayor Glenn Brasseaux declined to comment on any potential project at the old EVD site, and Lafayette Economic Development Authority President and CEO Gregg Gothreaux was out of the office and unavailable for this week.
Castille bought the old Evangeline Downs property, which at the time totaled 255 acres, for $11.7 million in 2007, assessor records confirm.
Years later, Castille later sold off a portion of the acreage that was later purchased by Saad Development in early 2016 — more than a decade after the track closed and relocated to St. Landry Parish — for $11 million to accommodate the FedEx project. Another approximately 85 acres of the back side of the site along Moss Street were purchased by Southern Lifestyle Development for two subdivisions, Moss Bluff and The Estates at Moss Bluff.