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Amazon is working on a new store on the first floor of this Capitol Hill apartment complex. Windows block off the inside as crews continue to work. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Amazon has been involved with a prime retail location in Seattle’s popular Capitol Hill neighborhood since 2015, more than a year before the company’s Amazon Go grocery concept was even announced. It’s an unusually large space for a potential new Amazon Go store, and would be the first in a residential area.

Now it looks like the secretive project is finally coming to fruition.

Amazon again declined to comment on the store this week in response to a GeekWire inquiry. But in recent months, the tech giant’s name has shown up on conveyance permits. GeekWire also obtained a document from early May that listed Lindsay Boyd, an Amazon construction coordinator, as the “client” for the project.

There was a flurry of activity at the site at 600 E. Pike St. last week when GeekWire paid a visit, with whispers around the neighborhood pointing to an opening as soon as later this month.

The windows are well-shielded from the public — no small cracks that reveal any hints this time around — so it’s tough to estimate the progress. But permit documents provide clues as to what’s going on inside.

The site features several hallmarks of Amazon Go, the company’s high-tech grocery concept. Drawings show space for the entry and exit kiosks where customers scan a QR code on the Amazon Go app that is used to enter the store and pay for items automatically upon exit.

Permit drawings for the new store. Click here for a larger version of the image.

No traditional checkout areas are shown in the drawings. There is a large general sales area with a section for alcohol, as well as an employee break room and storage.

A few unique characteristics make this store stand out and give credence to the possibility that it could be something different from the typical Amazon Go store, as GeekWire previously reported.

  • The total area of the retail space is about 10,400 square feet, and permit drawings show that the site is split roughly 3-to-1 between shoppable space and back-of-house operations. If that turns out to be the case, the Capitol Hill store could have somewhere in the area of 7,000 square feet of shoppable space, much bigger than the 1,500 and 3,000 square feet of front-of-house area in other Go stores.
  • Existing Amazon Go stores tend to be clustered around downtown office buildings. The Capitol Hill store will be the first in Seattle to be located in a residential building.

It’s unclear if the Capitol Hill location will be under the Amazon Go brand. Reports in recent months indicate that Amazon is kicking around a number of ideas to further expand its burgeoning grocery business following its acquisition of Whole Foods two years ago for $13.7 billion. Last December, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon was testing its cashierless tech for larger stores.

Since opening its first store to the public in January 2018, Amazon Go has grown to 13 locations across Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. The most recent opening came in May, when the company debuted its second New York store. It was the first to accept cash after critics called out Amazon for promoting a discriminatory practice with cashless retail.

Last year, Bloomberg reported Amazon was considering opening up 3,000 Go stores by 2021, but the speed of expansion thus far makes that seem unlikely. At its current rollout pace, Amazon will have around 30 locations at the beginning of 2021.

A mini format Amazon Go debuted earlier last year in one of the tech giant’s office buildings, opening the possibility of similar stores in areas such as airports and hospitals.

A WSJ report from March indicated that Amazon is planning a new grocery store business distinct from Whole Foods, with the first outlet open as early as the end of this year in Los Angeles. Leases have reportedly been signed for at least two other stores to open in 2020. It’s unclear if those stores would use cashierless technology.

Amazon’s other food-related businesses include Whole Foods grocery delivery; AmazonFresh; and AmazonFresh Pickup. The company surprisingly shut down its restaurant delivery business last month. It entered the brick-and-mortar retail space in 2015, two decades after the e-commerce behemoth originally launched.

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