Kansas City-based developer BlueScope Properties Group is pursuing its second new industrial project in northwest Orlando in the past year, with 178 acres under contract in Apopka and plans for more than 2.4 million square feet of new warehouses.
Located on General Electric Road, south of U.S. 441 and with more than 2,400 feet of frontage along the Western Expressway (S.R. 429), the site offers immediate access to the expressway system circling metro Orlando.
Dubbed the "Mid Florida Logistics Park," the company went before Apopka's Development Review Committee on Jan. 17 with a conceptual site plan for staff feedback.
The project would cover 178 gross acres that are served by rail, and is proposing approximately 2.42 million square feet of industrial space across five buildings.
BlueScope has the expansive property under contract from three different parties, the bulk of which is owned by an affiliate of Cape Canaveral-based Patrick T. Lee, co-owner of Mid-Florida Freezer Warehouses Ltd.
"We really like that 429 corridor, there's a ton of activity along there with Horizon West, Winter Garden and Ocoee, so we came across this site that (Lee) owns, and thought it would be a really good distribution location that could chase some of the larger requirements in the market," said Wilson McDowell, managing director and principal with Cite Partners, which is BlueScope's marketing agent for the future logistics park.
"It's very tough to find industrial land over 50 acres in Orange County, this site is one of the few. We're working through due diligence now," and no month has been set for closing.
The warehouses would range in size from 160,000 square feet to more than 1.02 million, with build-to-suit office options, 36-foot clear heights, dock-high and grade-level access, cross dock and rear loading, and multiple points of entry.
BlueScope is preparing the industrial park pads as build-to-suit for lease or sale, and will consider land sales.
Large prospective tenants in the e-commerce and manufacturing sectors are seeking warehouses of 1 million or more square feet, McDowell said. Walmart built two fulfillment centers in Davenport in 2016 totaling 2 million square feet.
"This (Apopka) site is one of the few in Orange County that can accommodate that size of building," McDowell said.
The bulk of the property is zoned I-1 Industrial, with a small portion zoned as a different form of commercial that will require rezoning.
This would be BlueScope's second new industrial development in that area of Orange County in the past year, following 25 acres it bought in Ocoee last June that also borders the Western Beltway.
That was a first phase of the 45.5-acre "Park at 429," with BlueScope buying lots for the first two warehouses which total more than 441,000 square feet. The first one was built last year and is partially leased, and the second is under construction with delivery in March.
An investment affiliate of Cite Partners' McDowell and Matthew Sullivan assembled that Ocoee property in 2016 and led it through entitlement, before selling the first phase to BlueScope.
Greater Orlando's industrial fundamentals were strong at the end of 2017, with net absorption of more than 4 million square feet for the year, an average rental rate of $6.48 per square foot that rose from 2016, and a vacancy rate that dropped 57 bps to 5.42 percent, despite 3.2 million square feet of new space being delivered, according to Avison Young's year-end 2017 market report.
Net absorption during 2017 was nearly double the rate recorded the year prior, and landlords were increasing rents by an average of $0.48 per square foot on a triple-net basis since end-2016.
Orlando's Northwest area, which includes Apopka, may be the strongest area for leasing growth in 2018, with multiple new industrial projects under construction. It had an occupancy rate of 91.6 percent at the end of last year for nearly 6.2 million square feet, with an average lease rate of $6.63, and 246,000 square feet under construction.