Two projects are poised to bring massive warehouse, distribution and manufacturing growth and a significant number of jobs to Berks County.
The projects, Hamburg Commerce Park and Hamburg Logistics Park, are in Perry Township and highlight the strong demand for industrial properties in Berks County.
Though Berks has seen slower growth in this sector as compared to neighboring Lehigh County, the largely rural county has seen more interest with the successful completion of the 323-acre Berks Park 78 industrial park several years ago.
With nearly 5 million square feet combined in development in the works, the two projects are influenced by Berks Park 78. Officials said Berks Park 78’s completion and quick occupancy proved a viable industrial market exists in Berks County.
“It [Berks Park 78] was a very large site. The fact that it’s filled up, it made an opening for something to come in,” said James Clymer of Key Development Group of West Chester, developer of Hamburg Logistics Park. “It really helped put Berks County on the map.”
Berks, meanwhile, also enjoys strong transportation arteries and a location near major Northeast markets. It was only a matter of time before companies looked west of Lehigh County, which is running out of space for large industrial development.
Thomas McKeon, executive director of the Berks County Industrial Development Authority, also noted the two Perry Township sites are close to the Reading workforce and should attract a good labor market. Also, the two projects are only several miles from I-78 and near the Lehigh Valley labor pool, as well, he added.
“We felt like because Berks County also has an interstate highway running through it, we could take advantage of that location and all that interest in warehouse and industrial development,” McKeon said.
The proximity of the two developments will create synergy, said Pamela Shupp, vice president of Greater Reading Economic Partnership.
Hamburg Commerce Park will have buildings with smaller footprints, which could allow existing Berks County companies to grow, she said. Hamburg Logistics Park has bigger footprints and could attract large companies to the county, she said.
“We are very optimistic. … They [the sites] are directly adjacent to Route 61, so it keeps the industrial development close to the transportation corridor, allowing the remainder of the township to retain its rural character,” Shupp said.
Key Development Group’s plan for Hamburg Logistics Park is to construct three buildings, totaling more than 2.2 million square feet and bringing about 650 jobs. The real estate firm is looking to build the $70 million industrial park on 165 acres of Perry Golf Course.
The golf course is open but will close once construction begins, he said.
Clymer said he hopes to break ground on his project this summer. He has an approved land plan for three warehouses, but no tenants to announce.
The largest building would be 1.354 million square feet, the second 504,000 square feet and the third 384,350 square feet. The plan is for light industrial and distribution users.
At Hamburg Commerce Park, the developer is looking to build more than 2 million square feet of industrial buildings on about 200 acres off Route 61. The site is diagonally across from the Key Development site, and both parcels are about two miles from the Hamburg interchange of Interstate 78.
The project is in the permitting stage and could be ready to break ground next spring, said Dave King, vice president of King’s Real Estate Group A of Hamburg, developer and owner of Hamburg Commerce Park.
King submitted a plan to the township in February highlighting what the development could look like upon completion, which would include five industrial buildings on mostly farmland.
“We are open to a lot of different ideas,” King said. “It could be light manufacturing; we don’t have any tenants yet.”
The project requires wetland mitigation; King said he hopes to have all permits secured by year’s end.
The first week in April, the company will begin demolishing some of the structures on the property. The television show Black Dog Salvage will shoot a series of episodes on salvaging items in the mansion on the property, King said.
Black Dog Salvage, based in Roanoke, Va., specializes in resale, reclamation and repurposing of architectural, industrial and commercial elements.
The mansion was previously owned by a woman who gave about $25 million to a trust, which awards scholarships for anyone who attends college from the Hamburg Area School District, King said.
The developer is using Barnyard Boys LLP, a Lancaster County-based company, to dismantle pieces of the mansion and reclaim and reuse the pieces. Barnyard Boys also will demolish the buildings.
King said he has not hired an architect or construction firm to build the industrial park. He said he has retained Schlouch Inc. of Blandon for engineering and also could use it for site work.
Workers will demolish three houses, including the mansion. The other two homes are occupied; the mansion has been vacant for about 10 years, King said.
King’s Real Estate Group A bought another farm next to the estate, which will be developed as part of the project.
Some work has been completed, and the developer will undergo a state Department of Transportation traffic study, in addition to bringing infrastructure, including building new roads and water and sewer access to the site.
King said he is not sure how much construction will cost for full build-out.