A massive e-commerce fulfillment center, similar to Amazon’s robotics facility near Richmond Raceway, is in the works for a site in northeastern Goochland County about two miles west of Wyndham and Short Pump.
Codenamed “Project Rocky,” the proposed distribution facility would fill 60 acres of a 105-acre site at and around 1990 Ashland Road, between the Martin Marietta and Luck Stone quarries in the county’s Rockville area.
Behind the project is California-based Panattoni Development Co., whose industrial developments include the Virginia I-95 distribution complex that includes an Amazon distribution center.
The Rockville facility, described by county staff as both a fulfillment center and a distribution center, would be similar to “Project Speedway,” the 2.6-million-square-foot facility that Hillwood Enterprises is developing for Amazon north of the raceway.
Despite details suggesting another Amazon facility, the end-user for Project Rocky is officially under wraps.
At a Goochland Planning Commission meeting this month, local Roth Jackson attorney Andy Condlin, who’s representing Panattoni on the project, described the Rockville facility as similar to Project Speedway but said “the ultimate user obviously can change.”
Noting sensitivities involved with an economic development project, Condlin said, “That is something that they’re trying to keep very close to the vest, as far as who that particular user is. But it’s a worldwide user that has a lot of known processes that Panattoni has worked with in the past.”
Responding to speakers in the meeting who questioned the project’s transparency in light of the codename, Condlin said Panattoni had been presented as the developer in a community meeting on the proposal that was held in May.
“This is not a question of trying to figure out who it is,” Condlin said.
Panattoni is seeking to rezone the land from agricultural to industrial use. It’s also applying for a conditional-use permit, which would allow a building height of up to 120 feet.
The center would be built off a 650,000-square-foot footprint, the same footprint as the raceway facility, which Amazon refers to as its RIC4 fulfillment center. The Rockville facility would likewise be a multistory building with an atrium-style interior with robotics on upper floors. The five-story RIC4 is 100 feet at its highest point.
The Rockville facility would include 55 loading docks, 414 trailer parking spaces and 1,720 employee parking spaces, according to county documents. The building and parking would be set back from Ashland Road with landscape buffering, a retention pond and sound walls installed.
A county staff report states the investment in the site “would be well over $500 million.”
The center would employ about 1,000 workers across two shifts and operate 24-7. Peak truck traffic would occur in overnight hours, between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., and the majority of traffic from trucks and employees is expected to come from Interstate 64 via the Ashland Road interchange.
The project would add traffic signals at the interchange and at its entrance off Ashland Road. The interchange signal, at the I-64 eastbound ramps, is described in the report as a short-term solution in lieu of a planned “diverging diamond” interchange there.
The design, preferred by the Virginia Department of Transportation, reduces signalization frequency by routing traffic temporarily to opposite sides of the road. The $17 million project, which recently secured VDOT funding, is scheduled for design by the end of 2023 and construction in 2028, county planning staff said.
Driveways for nearby Luck Stone facilities would also be relocated as part of the project.
Several residents of the nearby Parkside Village subdivision, an age-restricted community about a mile from the project site, said in a public hearing that the fulfillment center would contribute to traffic and road quality woes.
“There is no doubt that residents of Parkside Village, a 55-and-up community, will experience gridlock,” resident Margaret Levet told the commission. She also questioned why Panattoni is applying for the approvals under an LLC called PDC TN/FL LPIV.
“Why the code talk?” Levet asked. “Who exactly is seeking to erect a fulfillment center on this parcel? The lack of transparency inspires skepticism and leads me to believe that the applicant and county and state government understand that many of us who will be impacted by this proposal will not see this as a positive.”
Condlin noted the “PDC” in the LLC’s name are initials for Panattoni Development Co. Jo Ann Hunter, Goochland’s deputy county administrator for community and economic development, also mentioned the sensitivities involved in such projects when a commissioner inquired about the LLC name.
“This is an economic development project, so the applicant does not want to share their name at this time,” Hunter said, adding that it has similar facilities elsewhere in Virginia and in Delaware and Nashville, Tennessee.
Hunter also noted the site is within an area of the county identified as its industrial corridor. In addition to the quarries, surrounding properties include the Rockville Commerce Industrial Park, home to Midnight Brewery and other businesses.
The project site consists of four parcels owned by successor trustees for Nancy Bailey and James Nuckols Jr. The county has assessed the parcels at $6 million collectively.
It’s unclear whether Panattoni has the property under contract. Reached Monday, Condlin said he could not comment on the project.
Panattoni is working with engineering firms Bowman, which drew up the conceptual plan; Kimley-Horn, which produced a transportation analysis; and Ceso, which handled the landscaping plan.
The Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the rezoning and permit requests, which now go to the Board of Supervisors. The board is scheduled to make a final decision at its Aug. 2 meeting.