At least five 1 million-square-foot distribution centers in the works for city

Sep 3, 2019

Becknell Industrial is the latest, proposing a 1,108,080-square-foot building in Westlake Industrial Park.

What’s up with all of these 1 million-square-foot proposed distribution centers?

It could be that some brand-name tenants need Southeast facilities, indicating that the economy is supporting the investment.

At least five warehouses that size are proposed and four have been reported.

“We’re very emboldened by the activity,” said Dan Fogarty, executive vice president development for Lyons, Illinois-based Becknell Industrial.

Becknell Industrial is the latest developer to propose a 1.1 million-square-foot distribution center in Jacksonville, meaning the market is heating up for large projects that typically create hundreds of jobs.

Becknell proposes a 1,108,080-square-foot building on 173 acres at 13522 Pritchard Road in Westlake Industrial Park west of Interstate 295.

Fogarty estimates the potential investment at more than $50 million.

Centers that size typically are e-commerce facilities that ship orders to consumers or are other types of fulfillment warehouses that send goods to retail stores and other brick-and-mortar customers.

Jacksonville’s three newest centers developed or under construction of that size are driven by e-commerce — two facilities in North Jacksonville and in Westside’s Cecil Commerce Center, and the Wayfair Inc. center under development in Cecil next to Amazon.

Fogarty said Tuesday there are at least two corporate prospects that are “very serious about large bulk buildings in Jacksonville.”

He declined to disclose their identities, but he said his group is “in conversations with prospects.”

Two names that have long floated around the area for large warehouses are Lowe’s Companies Inc. and Walmart. Neither has confirmed looking at the city.

Lowe’s spokesman Steven Salazar repeated by email Wednesday what he said last year. “We have no current plans to open a distribution facility in Jacksonville,” he said.

Walmart has not responded to an email seeking comment.

Fogarty said Becknell is spending about $1 million to prepare the site and intends to apply for a building permit by the end of September.

The Jacksonville Planning Commission approved a zoning exception last week to allow for outside storage of trailers and related uses associated with the distribution facility.

Fogarty said site clearing could start in mid-October. Construction could be completed and the building ready for occupancy by third-quarter 2020, he said.

He said there always seem to be two or three prospects that size seriously looking at the Northeast Florida market.

If Becknell has not secured a tenant by the time construction is expected to start by early next year, Fogarty said the company might begin with a 400,000-square-foot building that can be extended.

That acreage also has space for another building in a later phase. Plans indicate a potential 187,500-square-foot structure.

Four more million-square-footers

At least four other large warehouses have been in review in Jacksonville.

Those comprise:

• A 1.1 million-square-foot project at Imeson Park in North Jacksonville. VanTrust Real Estate LLC is the developer.

• A 1.2 million-square-foot distribution warehouse in NorthPoint Industrial Park in North Jacksonville. Pattillo Industrial Real Estate is the developer.

• A 1.5 million-square-foot center at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville. Hillwood is the master developer.

• A 1.54 million-square-foot building along Pecan Park Road in North Jacksonville. Benderson Development Co. is the developer.

Developers have not identified tenants or prospects.

“There are a lot of these 1 million-square-footers being built around the country,” said Pattillo Vice President Peter Anderson.

“We don’t see the volume in Jacksonville, but I think everyone wants to be ready should one pop up,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the area typically sees one or two a year, although Amazon.commight have satisfied some of that search.

Anderson said Pattillo wants to have its entitlements in order so it can start construction when appropriate, whether on a speculative basis or for a build-to-suit for a prospect.

“We don’t have any plans to begin construction yet,” he said.

At Imeson Park, VanTrust Executive Vice President John Carey said no tenant has been signed and the development timing has not been determined.

The VanTrust property attracted attention two years ago for a major project.

Before VanTrust’s ownership, the 156-acre property was the site for the proposed 1.3 million-square-foot Project Zeus, the 2017 prospect that was believed to be Walmart. It wasn’t built.

VanTrust bought the 156-acre Imeson site in September and has entitlements for 3 million square feet of warehouse space.

Upon the purchase, VanTrust began work on the site. It is developing the 300,000-square-foot Cra-Z-Art building and a 552,170-square-foot speculative warehouse, which is expected to be available in September.

At Pecan Park Road, Benderson’s plans show the 499,000-square-foot Building 100 and the almost 1.54 million-square-foot Building 200. Representatives have not responded to questions.

Becknell has more on tap

Separately, Becknell has completed a 185,250-square-foot distribution center for lease at 12075 Pritchard Road in Westlake.

Fogarty said Becknell has responded to two proposals and is working on a third to prospects looking for space to lease.

Guy Preston and Seda Preston at Colliers International are marketing the Becknell sites.

“There’s a good amount of velocity right now,” said Guy Preston, executive director at Colliers.

Preston said there is some effect of the trade tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump, leading some groups to exercise their competitive advantages to expand their foreign operations into the U.S.

Seda Preston is a senior associate at Colliers.

In November, the city issued a permit for Becknell Services to build a 185,686-square-foot speculative building on 18.7 acres at 12075 Pritchard Road.

When a tenant signs for that building, Becknell intends to start construction on a 161,000-square-foot warehouse, Fogarty said.

He said previously that demand for warehouse space was outpacing supply in Jacksonville.

Westlake Industrial Park is owned by Atlanta-based Westlake Land Management Inc., part of Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern.

Becknell Industrial partnered with Norfolk Southern to develop the available property.

More than 1,000 acres remain available in the 3,000-acre park for commercial industrial development, Fogarty said.

Westlake is anchored by Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Georgia-Pacific, among other users.