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Lakeland-based Blue Steel Development is doubling down on demand for distribution and warehouse space in Apopka with two new industrial projects in the pipeline.

In November, Blue Steel and JV partner Bob Zlatkiss assembled nearly 250 acres on U.S. 441/Orange Blossom Trail with plans to develop a new industrial park entitled for up to 2.5 million square feet of distribution warehouse space. The partners paid $9.33 million for the property, which is located about 3 minutes from the S.R. 429 interchange, and next to the private Orlando Apopka Airport. They’re calling the project Apopka 429.

Blue Steel Principal Austin Jones said the size of the project and its proximity to S.R. 429 make it an ideal for distribution and logistics, which is why they plan to start construction in March on the spec industrial park.

The 249 acre site just west of U.S. 441/Orange Blossom Trail is next to a private airport and has rail access. It's just north of the Mid Florida Logistics Park.
The 249 acre site just west of U.S. 441/Orange Blossom Trail is next to a private airport and has rail access. It’s just north of the Mid Florida Logistics Park.

According to applications recently filed with the St. Johns River Water Management District, Blue Steel is seeking mass grading permit for the larger industrial park. “We’re going to go ahead and put in the roads, utilities and infrastructure first,” Jones said.

The preliminary site plan from Kimley-Horn calls for three cross-dock warehouse buildings ranging in size from 546,000 square feet (36-foot clear height) to 1.2 million square feet (40-feet clear height). The site plan also includes a fueling station and ample parking for trailers and employees.

The second Apopka project is located at 650 Hermit Smith Rd, even closer to the S.R. 429 interchange. Blue Steel has filed environmental permits for a 290,000-square-foot spec warehouse on 19.6 acres. The property abuts the Mid Florida Logistics Park, a 180-acre industrial park where Amazon is building a distribution facility. The Seattle-based e-commerce firm joins the like of other companies with a presence at Mid-Florida Logistics Park. Those include Goya Foods (Lot 1), Universal Studios Orlando (Lot 2) and Coca-Cola Co. (Lot 5).

Horton, Harley & Carter will be the project architect. JLL’s Matt Sullivan, Wilson McDowell and Bobby Isola are handling leasing efforts.

Blue Steel focuses exclusively on Class A warehouse distribution and already has a project underway in the City of Orlando. The developer paid $10.4 million in September for 66 acres on the north side of L.B. McLeod Road, extending east to President Barack Obama Parkway.

Jones said construction is underway on 450,000 square feet of spec industrial space in the relaunched Axcess Park at 33rd., and that development of the two Apopka sites would run on parallel tracks.

Meanwhile, Winter Garden developer Jose Cantero also filed plans last week with SJRWMD to construct a 60,000-square-foot industrial building, which is the first phase of his proposed Groveland Commerce Center. The 23-acre project would rise at the southwest corner of U.S. 27 and State Road 19, with access to the Florida’s Turnpike. Cantero told GrowthSpotter the site already has the proper zoning, so with permits he could break ground in about 90 days.

The Groveland Commerce Center on U.S. 27 would be entitled for 133,000 square feet of industrial space at three retail buildings.
The Groveland Commerce Center on U.S. 27 would be entitled for 133,000 square feet of industrial space at three retail buildings.

“We’re doing small bay industrial,” Cantero told GrowthSpotter. “It would have the capacity for up to 46 units, but we won’t do that because we’ll have users who take multiple bays. They will be available in increments of 1,250 square feet.”

The civil work was performed by Madden, Moorhead & Stokes; while C4 Architecture is the building designer. The site plan allows for future development of two additional industrial buildings, each 37,553 square feet. The plan also creates three commercial outparcels fronting on U.S. 27. Those lots would be entitled for retail uses of up to 5,000 square feet.

“We’re already had decent interest in those parcels,” Cantero said. “We could sell them or do build-to-suit or land leases. We don’t have any confirmed deals yet.”

According to a third quarter industrial report by JLL, the Greater Orlando industrial submarket saw one of its strongest quarters in recent history with absorption rates and rents increasing, and vacancy rates decreasing.

More than 1.7 million square feet of deliveries were added to inventory this quarter, and vacancy ticked down 20 basis points, according to the report. Direct asking rents also resumed growth, climbing 2.3 percent year-over-year to $6.48 per square foot.

In addition, the report states that leasing activity is anticipated to pass a five-year high, and was propelled by e-commerce users with large footprints expanding in the market.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.