Amazon to open Council Bluffs warehouse, likely to be seventh Iowa location over two years

Tyler Jett
Des Moines Register

Amazon will open a warehouse in Council Bluffs as it seeks to speed up its deliveries throughout Iowa. 

A company spokesperson confirmed to the Des Moines Register on Tuesday that Amazon will open a sortation center in a building that Pottawattamie County assessor records show it bought June 16 at 3860 S. 24th St. for $12.1 million.

The warehouse appears to be the seventh Amazon property in Iowa. Since the beginning of last year, the company has opened warehouses in Ankeny, Grimes and Iowa City and two in Bondurant. It  also appears to be behind another facility in Davenport.

Amazon delivery route: Fulfillment, sortation, delivery

Amazon's sortation centers, such as the warehouse coming to Council Bluffs, are the middle stop in the route from the placement of an order to the customer's door.

The process of filling an order begins at the largest of Amazon's warehouses — a fulfillment center —when someone places an order on Amazon.com. Robots and employees pull the selection from thousands of items stored on site and place it in a box.

From there, it's transported to a sortation center, where employees sort boxes by delivery region. A driver will collect the boxed order and either deliver it directly to the customer or, in more densely populated metro areas, take it to a smaller delivery station. 

At the delivery station, employees sort the boxes further, by ZIP code and specific route. Drivers then deliver the boxes to the purchasers.

Amazon locations in Iowa

In Iowa, Amazon opened its first fulfillment center in Bondurant in December and announced that it is building a sortation center nearby. It has a delivery center in Grimes and confirmed Tuesday that a project it has underway in Ankeny will be a second delivery center for the metro area.

Though the company has not confirmed a second fulfillment center in the state, a developer is building a warehouse in Davenport that looks nearly identical to the Bondurant building. An Iowa Department of Transportation grant application for the Davenport property also identifies the company behind the warehouse with descriptions and statistics copied directly rom Amazon's financial disclosures.

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In the case of the Council Bluffs warehouse, the building is about 15 miles northeast of Papillion, Nebraska, just outside Omaha, where Amazon is building a fulfillment center this year.

By building its own warehouses and a network of third-party drivers, Amazon can deliver packages faster than when it relies on the U.S. Postal Service and logistics companies like United Parcel Service.

Amazon began leasing and building warehouses about two decades ago. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began last year and online spending increased, the company began to build them at a much faster pace.

Developers originally built the warehouse Amazon is buying in Council Bluffs in 2015 for XTL, a cold storage and logistics company. But XTL failed to pay contractors, according to a lawsuit, and Omaha-based Boyd Jones Construction sued in June 2017, A judge ordered XTL to pay $5.7 million in August 2018. XTL instead filed for bankruptcy protection

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office transferred the building to Boyd Jones Construction in August 2019. The company then transferred the building to 80/29 Access LLC, which sold the property to Amazon.

Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh and a city spokesperson did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Tyler Jett covers jobs and the economy for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at tjett@registermedia.com, 515-284-8215, or on Twitter at @LetsJett.