Dec. 15--SUFFOLK -- A North Carolina developer unveiled plans Wednesday for a massive business park on U.S. 460 that includes four warehouse buildings totaling about 1.1 million square feet.
The estimated $60 million to $70 million proposal, driven largely by cargo growth through the local port, is the latest example of the region's robust warehouse and distribution market.
"It's like a tsunami," said Clay Culberth, head of the industrial properties division for GVA Advantis in Norfolk. Even though 1.1 million square feet "sounds like a lot of space, that's just the beginning of what's going to be needed. It's just all port driven."
The rapid growth of consumer imports from Asia through the port of Hampton Roads is driving the need for additional warehouse space in the region. The planned 2007 opening of a terminal in Portsmouth for Maersk Sealand, the world's largest shipping line, will only add to the warehousing demand.
Comparatively cheap land is helping Suffolk become a favorite target.
"We're seeing a lot of new warehouse developments proposed because of the expansion of ports," said Thomas O'Grady, Suffolk's director of economic development.
In April, developers announced plans for 760,000 square feet of warehouse space off Carolina Road south of downtown Suffolk, and Target Corp. officials said they were adding 300,000 square feet to the company's 1.5 million-square-foot Suffolk warehouse.
The latest project is slated for 110 acres on U.S. 460 just west of the U.S. 58 Bypass next to Mount Zion Elementary School. It's being proposed by Regional Property Development Corp., a Charlotte company run by two brothers, Michael and Larry Shaheen. If approved, this will be their first project in Virginia.
The plan is to start with a 400,000-square-foot building in mid-2006, said Michael Shaheen. Three more buildings, ranging in size from 165,000 to 300,000 square feet, will follow as demand permits, he added.
A smaller retail and office component also is part of the proposal, dubbed Virginia Regional Commerce Park. Shaheen estimated the park could be built out in five to seven years and employ up to 2,000 people.
The project still needs to win a rezoning approval from the City Council.
Shaheen said he's prepared to spend $3 million to help widen U.S. 460 and install traffic lights.
No tenants are in place, but Shaheen stressed that building speculatively is necessary because most big companies don't have time to wait before moving in.
Culberth of GVA Advantis said the size of the first proposed building shows the developers are confident about getting tenants.
"Without putting words in their mouths," he said, "by starting with 400,000 square feet they are comfortable with the idea that there will be some significant users coming to the market in the near future."
Reach Aaron Applegate at (757) 222-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) (KRT) -- 12/16/05)