The growth of distribution centers and manufacturing facilities in western Lehigh County shows no signs of slowing as companies show greater interest in increased trailer storage, fulfillment operations and a greater focus on retailers sending products faster to customers.
Big box warehouses and manufacturing facilities and office buildings will continue to see strong growth throughout this part of the region. The recent openings of Bimbo Bakery and Ocean Spray in Breinigsville early this year are just two examples of the burgeoning wave of manufacturing and distribution growth in this part of the county.
Now, Liberty Property Trust of Bethlehem is looking to build five large warehouses – including four that each are more than 1 million square feet – further fueling growth in speculative development within the industrial sector in western Lehigh County.
In Lower Macungie Township, one proposed warehouse is 1.2 million square feet, another 1.1 million square feet and another 650,000 square feet. In neighboring Upper Macungie Township, the proposals calls for warehouses at 1.3 million square feet and 1.2 million square feet.
While Lower Macungie Township approved the warehouses this month, the developers need other approvals before construction can begin, according to Sara Pandl, director of planning and community development for the township.
“They were only approved through land development, so they still need PennDOT and DEP permits, plus stormwater and utility approvals,” Pandl said, referencing the state Department of Transportation and state Department of Environmental Protection. “It is a large project; it is going to take some time.”
Proposed sizes for the warehouses are 1.2 million square feet, 1.1 million square feet and 650,000 square feet, said Bill Bumber, vice president of development for Liberty Property Trust. The plans also include a 10,000 square foot office building, Pandl said.
While some of the township’s warehouses have manufacturing uses, Liberty does not have any tenants in mind but believes the market is there to attract prospects.
“We would anticipate breaking ground on this project this year, so it would be a multiple year construction project,” Bumber said.
He said he expects to have the approvals in hand shortly.
The Liberty at Spring Creek Properties project would be on 200 acres of vacant land on Spring Creek Road, Bumber said. The location is south of the intersection of Spring Creek Road and Route 100 and near Lower Macungie Township Park.
With the recently approved Hamilton Crossings shopping center coming to Lower Macungie Township and additional warehouses in the works, the township is showing strong growth.
“We’ve experienced a lot of residential growth; now we are starting to experience industrial and commercial growth,” Pandl said. “We are hoping that it’s something that’s a good job-generator.”
In a separate project, Liberty Property Trust is planning to build two warehouses on property it bought from Air Products & Chemicals Inc. at the southwest corner of Mill Creek Road and the Route 222 bypass in Upper Macungie Township.
The developers appeared in June before Upper Macungie’s planning commission for approval. However, according to Sam Ashmar, vice chairman of the township’s supervisors, there have been no approvals granted. Significant road improvements would have to be implemented before the project could move forward.
So far, Liberty Property Trust submitted concept plans to Upper Macungie, Ashmar said.
One proposed warehouse is 1.3 million square feet, and a second building is 1.2 million square feet, he said.
“They’ve indicated at this point that they don’t have any tenants in mind,” Ashmar said.
The project, called Liberty at Mill Creek, would have a major regional impact on the Route 222 bypass, which presents hurdles that need to be overcome, according to Ashmar.
“This is something we are looking at not just independently but from a regional standpoint,” he said. “There would have to be significant road improvements, but, at the end of the day, the bypass is going to need a bypass.”