Amazon Opening Akron Fulfillment Center

A vacant store and a weedy, tire-strewn parking lot at the former Rolling Acres Mall in Akron will be redeveloped into a four-story Amazon fulfillment center. [Khabir Bhatia / WKSU]
A vacant store and a weedy, tire-strewn parking lot at the former Rolling Acres Mall in Akron will be redeveloped into a four-story Amazon fulfillment center. [Khabir Bhatia / WKSU]

Updated: 5:15 p.m., July 22, 2019

Online retail behemoth Amazon is expanding its presence in Ohio with plans to open two new fulfillment centers, one in Akron and the other near Toledo.

The company estimates the two facilities combined will create more than 2,500 full-time jobs, with more than half of those jobs — an estimated 1,500 — at the Akron facility, which will be on the site of the former Rolling Acres Mall.

Construction in Akron is set to begin in September. Jobs will start at $15 an hour and will include "comprehensive benefits, including full medical, vision and dental insurance as well as a retirement investment plan" as well as "opportunities to work alongside Amazon robotics in an industry-leading workplace," according to Amazon's July 22 press release

"Ohio has been a great place to do business, serve customers and create jobs; as a result, we are thrilled to develop two state-of-the-art fulfillment centers in Akron and Rossford," said Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon's vice president of global customer fulfillment, in a statement. "We're excited to grow our team in the Buckeye state, which now includes more than 8,500 Amazonians, and be part of the larger Ohio community."

Each fulfillment center will be more than 700,000 square feet, about the size of 12 football fields and both centers will be used to pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and toys, according to Amazon. Those hired will have access to continuing education opportunities through programs such as Career Choice, an Amazon program that pre-pays up to 95 percent of tuition for courses, "regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon." More than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees through the program, including in fields such as nursing, game design and radiology, according to the company.

The Akron fulfillment center would be the latest chapter in the history of the now-defunct Rolling Acres Mall, which originally opened in 1975 as home to major retailers such as Sears, J.C. Penney, Lane Bryant, The Limited, Chess King and others before falling victim to changing shopping habits, a lack of investment and perceptions of high crime. The mall officially closed in 2008. Premier Ventures LLC, an out-of-state corporation, bought the property in 2010 but failed to pay taxes and Summit County foreclosed on the property in 2013.  It took the county years to wrest control of the site from Premier, which sought to prevent the county from taking control of the land for redevelopment. The city of Akron took ownership of the former mall site in 2016.

The new Akron facility plus the Rossford location, south of Toledo, will bring the number of similar facilities Amazon has in Ohio to nine, including two others in former Northeast Ohio malls — one in Euclid at the former Euclid Square Mall and the other in North Randall, on the site of Randall Park Mall.

"We are thrilled to welcome Amazon to Akron, to transform this once blighted property into a thriving logistics and distribution hub," said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. "This is the single largest job-creating project we have undertaken in a generation. We look forward to continuing to partner with Amazon to empower the Akron community with employment, education and skills training opportunities."

Amazon has not yet released a timeline for the project but to prepare for the development, Akron is repaving Romig Road, which runs by the site, and upgrading a nearby freeway interchange. Horrigan says the investment is coming to a previously neglected part of the city and that it has been a priority of his to get a new business into the vacant land since he took office three years ago.

“We’re creating a jobs hub and bringing jobs to where people live as opposed to the opposite of putting them out in places where it’s maybe a little more difficult to get to," he said Horrigan.

This will be Amazon's second Summit County property. The company also has a sorting center in Twinsburg, at the site of a Chrysler stamping plant that closed in 2010.

Just last year, another Ohio city was in the running for a broader partnership with Amazon. Columbus was one of 20 cities under consideration by Amazon in 2018 for its second headquarters. The company ended up selecting New York City and Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C., for its HQ2 project. The company cancelled the New York City plans after intense criticism and local opposition following the announcement.

ideastream's Glenn Forbes contributed to this report.

Correction: The total number of Amazon facilities in Ohio will be ten with the addition of the Akron and Rossford locations. The story previously listed the number of Ohio facilities as totaling eight.

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