Amazon: "Project Thunderbird"

Amazon may be the company behind “Project Thunderbird,” a 3 million square foot industrial project with humans on the ground floor—and robots on four floors above them. The DLR Group submitted renderings of the project to the Design Review Board.


No word on whether they will spend breaks at the local oil shop asking for a “quick cup of grease,” but robots are heading to Mesa.

Earlier this month, the Mesa Design Review Board approved a secretive project called Project Thunderbird, which sounds a lot like an Amazon operation.

According to a plan submitted by the DLR Group, the project’s architecture firm, the industrial building will be on 80 acres near Pecos and Hawes roads.

The towering (by Mesa standards, at least) 100-foot building will have around 750 humans per shift on the ground floor.

“The remaining second, third, fourth and fifth floors, known as the Robotic Storage Platforms, will house a large automated storage retrieval system with shelf-like storage units (pods) that are moved by low-profile robots.”

While robot sorters will take up most of the space, the first floor will have “warehouse employees picking orders and stowing product.”

The robots and humans will work nonstop.

“The proposed facility will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and typically consist of both day and night shifts,” according to the presentation.

Amazon has a similar facility with humans and robots rubbing shoulders and gears in the West Valley.

If Project Thunderbird turns out to be an Amazon development, that means the world’s largest company is quickly enlarging its Mesa footprint.

Amazon opened its first Mesa distribution center near Falcon Field near the end of 2019.

Six months ago, the Tribune reported on “Project Javelina.” 

Though a company spokesman refused to confirm or deny it is planning another Amazon facility in Mesa, “Amazon Hub” appears on the plan twice, below a sketch of “package pickup and return” and “customer service” entrances.

Project Javelina is on Eastmark’s northern boundary on 47 acres at the southwest corner of Elliot Road and Everton Terrace.

The plan describes a one-story building of just over 180,000 square feet, similar in size to the Falcon Field Amazon facility at 3115 N. Higley Road. 

Similarly, Amazon first built smaller distribution centers in the West Valley, before launching a massive robotics facility that had the code name Project Sol.

In Eastmark, Project Javelina “is being designed for package delivery service, with two anticipated shifts working days and evenings and a possible third shift added at peak season,” according to a plan submitted to the city.

On May 4, DLR Group submitted plans for Project Javelina to the city’s Planning and Zoning Department, along with a payment of $10,405 in fees. 

The owner is listed as Seefried Industrial Properties, which, according to its website, is “a longtime Amazon development and project management partner.”

Also according to its website, “Seefried completed the development of an 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center for Amazon on New Allen Road (also in Memphis) in the fourth quarter of 2020.”

The Project Thunderbird submittals to the Design Review Board state the owner of the property is Gateway South.

But an administrative review application for the project lists, under “property owner information,” Zach Maki of Seefried Development Management.

Maki is also listed as the owner of Project Javelina. He did not respond to a query from the Tribune, asking for confirmation of the Amazon facilities.

On Aug. 16, DLR paid $42,750 to the city of Mesa for civil engineering and commercial permit deposits for Project Javelina.   

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