Amazon distribution center plans for Cortana site on agenda at today’s Metro Council meeting

The Metro Council is holding a special meeting this afternoon to consider rezoning the former Cortana Mall site for an Amazon regional distribution center.

Earlier this month, the East Baton Rouge Parish Planning Commission approved rezoning the former mall property and amending the parish land use plan to make way for the massive project, which includes a 2.9 million-square-foot warehouse, 45,000-square-foot office building, pump house and guard house.

Should the council also OK the move, it will bring Seefried Properties—the Atlanta real estate company that develops distribution facilities for Amazon around the United States—one step closer to moving forward with its plans for the former mall, which was shuttered in mid-2019.

Specifically, the council will take up two requests from Seefried, both of which Planning Commission staff have recommended for passage. One would rezone the site from “heavy commercial and commercial alcoholic beverage,” which allowed for bars and restaurants in Cortana Mall, to “commercial warehousing 3,” while a requested amendment to the parish land use plan would change the property use from “regional center” to “employment center.”

It’s not immediately clear how the council will vote on the measure, although sources familiar with the situation have told Daily Report there is strong support for the project among city and state officials.

Last month, Seefried officials met with the mayor’s office and council members, who were all required to sign confidentiality agreements, to brief them on the project and make sure they would support the developer’s needs before any public documents were filed.

Furthermore, the council has already unanimously approved a 10-year property tax abatement on the project worth $35.4 million. In return, Seefried will create 1,000 local jobs and pay 100% of school taxes over the decade, even while it is exempt from other local property taxes like those that support police, fire, libraries and parks.

The special meeting will take place Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 3 p.m. in council chambers downtown. Check out the agenda.

This story originally appeared in Daily Report‘s Tuesday, Feb. 23, edition. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.