With the FedEx Ground hub nearing completion in Allen Township, anticipation is building for the business development sprouting on land surrounding the FedEx site near Lehigh Valley International Airport.
The New York-based The Rockefeller Group, which owns the 260-acre property north of the airport where FedEx Ground is rising, now owns more property with the agreement of a sale it finalized last month with the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority for several properties in Allen Township.
The three lots, which include two lots and an easement, total slightly more than 100 acres.
Clark Machemer, senior vice president and regional development officer for The Rockefeller Group’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania Group, said he plans to build two logistics centers on the land, with one at 1 million square feet and the other at about 290,000 square feet.
The structures will go up on vacant land to the north and left of the FedEx site. He said he plans to start construction on both buildings in early summer.
Both buildings should be finished and operational by the first quarter of next year, Machemer said.
Though The Rockefeller Group has its own design-build team, Machemer said he would be looking to hire a general contractor for the buildings and plans to pick one by April.
The speculative buildings likely will have logistics/distribution tenants, and Machemer said he was doubtful they would be manufacturers, based on the U.S. economy.
“This is something we have been working on for a while,” Machemer said. “There is a lot of synergistic aspects to what’s going on here … the road network that we are making significant improvements to.”
These improvements include adding traffic signals and widening Race Street, Willowbrook Road and Airport Road – which are main access points.
“I think something unique is going to happen here,” Machemer said. “I think they are unique in the components that can all come together.”
He described how the properties have several components that make them attractive to tenants, including the labor market, proximity to the airport and FedEx Ground hub, local highways and larger metro areas.
The two buildings will become The Rockefeller Group Logistics Park, with FedEx included.
Jeff Lockard, Rob Kossar, Paul Torosian and Brian Golden of Jones Lang LaSalle are marketing the properties.
Lockard, vice president in the industrial services group at JLL, said there are several factors that make the properties attractive to tenants, including good infrastructure, local workforce and population as well as the ability to service other major cities.
Furthermore, the road enhancements will improve access for a car or truck’s drive from or to Route 22 to the site, Lockard said.
LARGE AND SMALL COMPANIES
The 1 million-square-foot-building will go up across from FedEx off Willowbrook Road, and the 290,000-square-foot-building will go up to the north, Lockard said.
“We’ve seen significant interest from a handful of companies,” he said. “We are seeing good activity from users that already are in that market looking to expand.”
He said he also has seen interest from companies new to the market that want to operate a facility in eastern Pennsylvania, from large Fortune 500 companies to smaller companies.
The year looks to be another good one for activity in the industrial market.
“It’s indicative of the economy right now,” Lockard said. “Vacancy rates are low. Tenant activity is high.”
While acquiring properties from the airport authority, Machemer said, officials asked his company to look at the properties in a holistic fashion.
“Going back to day one, we were asked to holistically look at their property north of the airport, so we could support the development that’s coming,” Machemer said.
Machemer said Allen Township and the airport authority were very helpful throughout the process.
“This is actually all part of a decision that we made a number of years ago when we entered into our master plan agreement with Rockefeller,” said Thomas Stoudt, interim executive director of the LNAA.
The airport authority’s net proceeds from the sale were $3.9 million, Stoudt said.
Because the airport authority originally bought the land with Federal Aviation Administration funding, the funds it receives from a land sale have to go into a restrictive account.
“It can only be used for FAA-approved capital projects,” Stoudt said. “One of the primary projects we’ve been talking about is the rehabilitation project for the main runway.”
The Runway 6/24 rehabilitation should take several years to complete, but could be started this year, he said.
The entire rehabilitation of the 7,600-foot runway should cost about $40 million and span four years.