Amazon Outbids SEPTA for Southwest Philadelphia Property

The transit agency must renew its search for an appropriate facility for an expanded trolley barn as part of its plan to modernize its aging fleet.

April 5, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


SEPTA Trolley

Studio 34: Yoga | Healing | Arts / Flickr

According to a report by Ryan Briggs and Darryl C. Murphy for WHYY, "plans for a new SEPTA [Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority] trolley barn in Southwest Philadelphia — meant to support a larger overhaul of its aging light rail fleet — are on hold due to a competing proposal from online mega-retailer Amazon to build a new warehouse at the same location." Although SEPTA had started the process of securing ownership of the site, "PlanPhilly confirmed the agency has been effectively outbid by Amazon," with SEPTA's Assistant General Manager for Public & Government Affairs Fran Kelly quoted as saying the agency must go "back to the drawing board" to find a suitable location for its facility.

"The collapsing land deal comes as the agency faces a broader decline in ridership and revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is also a setback for what would have been a major first step toward a long-planned overhaul of the trolley network," a $1.6 billion modernization plan that "has made little progress" since its inception. Vincent Thompson, spokesperson for City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, "described the facility as a 'last mile' logistics site that could potentially host hundreds of jobs to a section of the city with above-average unemployment." Critics of the e-commerce giant dispute the benefits of an Amazon facility in the neighborhood. According to Kendra Van de Water, co-founder of YEAHPhilly, "the employment opportunities Amazon would bring to her neighborhood are part of a predatory strategy, where employees, many of them young people, are caught in a 'hamster wheel of survival.'"

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. "The retailer is due to appear at another Civic Design Review meeting on April 6 and is negotiating a community benefits agreement."

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