BY CHRISTINA HALEY O’NEAL
Jacksonville, Florida-based industrial and office developer Chesterfield has plans to construct a 300,000-square-foot industrial facility near the Port of Wilmington, officials with the company said Monday.
The main 23-acre site is located on port property across the street from Vertex Railcar Corp., in the 200 block of Raleigh Street, and about 0.9 mile away from the main gate of the port, according to Port of Wilmington spokeswoman Bethany Welch.
The project is expected to be developed in late 2018, said Chance Raehn, vice president of development at Chesterfield. “Our hope and expectations are that we have a build-to-suit project and the facility be operational by the end of 2018,” Raehn said. “This is a speculative project with a build-to-suit tenant in mind.”
The 300,000-square-foot warehouse is planned to have a minimum 32-foot clear height and more than 100 dock doors, according to port officials. Another 11-acre site located on an adjacent parcel is planned to provide room for expansion, with development plans calling for an additional 100,000 square feet of warehouse space in a separate building.
Chesterfield is leasing the land from the port, according to port officials.
The 300,000-square-foot facility could be divided and used as a multi-tenant building. Both projects could be developed into either single-user or multi-tenant facilities, Raehn said.
“The specs that we have provided is what we intend to construct. Although those specs could be modified slightly based on the build-to-suit tenant’s requirements,” Raehn said. “We don’t intend to build the two projects simultaneously unless we have two build-to-suit tenants.”
So far, only conceptual designs have been made for the project. Raehn said the more permanent design phase could start in early 2018, but it is unknown at this time when officials might break ground on the project.
“Based on the leadership at the Ports Authority, their operations and recent infrastructure improvement at the port and recent shipping line announcements, we feel that the Port of Wilmington is poised for unprecedented growth. Our intent for this facility is to support port-related operations,” Raehn said.
“We are marketing the building for tenants that will use the Port of Wilmington. And until we have a tenant, we will continue to market the building as a speculative building,” he said.
Currently, regional economic developers, the Port of Wilmington and Chesterfield are marketing the project for potential tenants.
Recently, information about the project was sent to 250 site selection consultants and industrial brokers nationally, according to Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership.
“Distribution and logistics is one of the targeted industry sectors for our organization and Wilmington Business Development, and the entire micro-region marketing initiative is where this fits,” Yost said. “It’s a unique development for this region …”
The project lines with an initiative that has been called the “at-port economic development model,” which is developing economic development strategies and opportunities based off the port in Wilmington, Yost said.
“The port drives so much economic activity,” Yost said. “They are growing in volume [and] more carriers … and we are trying to leverage that in terms of our development and recruiting companies.”
North Carolina’s Southeast, along with Wilmington Business Development, the Port of Wilmington and Brunswick County have each played a role in this at-port model, according to Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development.
“Right now for today’s standards, there is not an overwhelming amount of distribution-center product out there … and so we think this will help create product that will be attractive to port-related activity, which in turn should mean new jobs and new investment for our region,” Satterfield said. “And help to continue to put us on the map as a quality location for distribution, manufacturing and other related sectors that are dependent on a port.”
Talks about the projects and meeting with the port and economic developers have been ongoing for about 10 months, Raehn said. Chesterfield was recruited by North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership and the N.C. State Ports Authority to explore industrial opportunities in the Cape Fear region, he said.
The development is a typical project for Chesterfield, which has been developing office and industrial real estate since 2006. The development firm has worked with several recognizable companies, including General Electric Aviation, General Mills, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Target and Ikea.
Chesterfield has a similar model in Savannah, Georgia, with the Georgia Ports Authority. “The two projects are developing simultaneously,” Raehn said.
“Chesterfield is extremely excited about this opportunity. And we are excited to work with the North Carolina State Ports Authority,” Raehn said. “Chesterfield appreciates our partnership with the North Carolina State Ports Authority and we look forward to supporting the growth of the Port of Wilmington and the Cape Fear Region.”