In late July of 2020, Worcester’s Chief Development Officer Peter Dunn fired off a “shot in the dark question” via email to Todd Finard, who operates Finard Properties, the group that owns the Greendale Mall.
According to emails obtained by MassLive through public records requests, on July 28, Dunn asked Finard if he’d be willing to allow the city to use the parking lot of the Greendale Mall for free COVID testing as part of the state’s “Stop the Spread” campaign.
Finard responded about five hours later. He agreed to speak with public health officials about the possibility but also wanted to meet with the city to discuss the Greendale Mall project.
“While we’re not ready to make any announcements,” Findard wrote. “I would like to run a few possible ideas by [City Manager Edward Augustus Jr.], [City Solicitor Michael Traynor], and you.”
The possible ideas evolved into Amazon emerging as a tenant for a distribution center at the Greendale Mall.
The email exchanges continue through 2020 and reveal the timeline of Amazon’s interest in two locations in Worcester at the Greendale location and 125 Goddard Memorial Drive.
Together the facilities combine for 298,000 square feet of distribution space leading to at least 150 full-time jobs with Amazon and another 350 to 400 independent contractors delivering items.
Emails show the city agreed to an Aug. 31 meeting with Finard properties. The meeting was eventually postponed to Sept. 11 at 11 a.m. – about a month after the group allowed COVID tests to be conducted in the parking lot of the Greendale Mall.
According to the emails, about five people from Finard met with city officials inside the Levi Lincoln room on the third floor of City Hall on Sept. 11.
Stephen Madaus, the attorney representing Finard Properties, contacted Dunn to thank him following the meeting.
Dunn responded, “Likewise. Exciting Project.”
It wasn’t until two months later, in December, when Amazon revealed itself as the prospective tenant at the site.
Less than a month after city officials discussed the project at Greendale, a second Amazon site emerged on Oct. 2.
Madaus again contacted Dunn for a meeting, but this time with a different client, R.J. Kelly Co. of Burlington, looking at 125 Goddard Memorial Drive.
The email arrived at Dunn’s inbox at 1:35 p.m. By 3 p.m. Dunn correctly guessed the project was linked to Amazon.
Records show Dunn forwarded the meeting request to Stephen Rolle, the city’s Assistant Chief Development Officer, with the comment, “Is this Amazon?”
Rolle responded, “No idea…”
“Ya I’m calling it now. Amazon haha,” Dunn said.
Plans at 125 Goddard Memorial Drive became public as an Amazon distribution facility in December.
The meeting about 125 Goddard Memorial Drive mirrored that of the discussion held about Greendale, except R.J. Kelly Co. “time is of the essence.” Demolition wasn’t required and a tenant had already signed a lease.
On Oct. 8, Dunn forwarded the request from Madaus to Augustus’ assistant and said “I suspect the company is Amazon.”
With Augustus’ schedule book weeks out, a meeting was scheduled for Oct. 14 without the city manager. It was soon changed to Oct. 16 when Augustus told Dunn he wanted to be a part of the meeting, emails show.
The meeting was moved a third time when Amazon wanted to attend the meeting. The parties finally discussed the property at 125 Goddard Memorial Drive on Oct. 19 at 9 a.m.
Following the meeting with the city manager, representatives held a virtual meeting with Dunn and District 5 City Councilor Matt Wally on Oct. 28.
Balancing both projects now, Dunn suggested a similar meeting be held virtually with City Councilors Sean Rose and Candy Mero Carlson regarding the Greendale Mall project. Madaus agreed and the meeting is set for Nov. 4 with representatives from the “A team” like attending.
Following the meeting, information was finally released to the public at the end of the month.
On Nov. 24, plans for demolishing the Greendale Mall are made public.
On Dec. 8, Amazon, Reliant Health Care and Carlson participated in a virtual meeting to discuss among other things traffic concerns. A day later, Amazon was identified as the prospective tenant during a planning board meeting.
On Dec. 15, records show Amazon emailed Dunn about an announcement it planned to release regarding its signed lease at the facility on Goddard Memorial Drive.
Emails show the release only mentions the facility at Goddard Memorial Drive.
Dunn suggested providing context that despite signing a lease agreement at Goddard Memorial Drive, Amazon was still interested in the Greendale space.
Amazon declined the suggestion.
“That’s fine,” Dunn responded. “Just recognize that without the recommended clarification, people will speculate that you are no longer pursuing Greendale and have settled on Goddard.”
Plans for the Greendale facility include a 121,000 square foot distribution center. It is expected to be a part of Amazon’s “Last Mile” program.
The two sites will work independently of each other, according to the emails obtained by MassLive.
The facilities are expected to produce 150 full-time jobs with Amazon that will pay at least $15 per hour. Within the 150 jobs created, 30 to 50 will be managerial roles starting at $60,000.
According to the emails, the city isn’t contemplating tax relief for Amazon. However, the fleet of delivery vehicles will be registered in Worcester and will be eligible for excise tax.
While the facility on Goddard Memorial Drive is expected to be operational this year, construction of a distribution center at the site of the Greendale Mall would take about 12 to 18 months, placing a potential opening date somewhere in 2022.