UPDATED: JULY 31, 2018 9:44 AM — Houston-based Ridge Development filed construction plans this month for the first phase of a 1.35 million-square-foot distribution center on Lakeland Hills Boulevard.
A subsidiary of Transwestern Development, Ridge won approval last December from the Lakeland City Council to convert the defunct BridgeWater golf course into BridgeWater Business Park. The site is adjacent to First Park at BridgeWater, the first major Class A business park to be built on S.R. 33 in Lakeland.
"This will be our second project in Lakeland," Executive Vice President Steve Kros told GrowthSpotter. "Last year we completed the Lakeland Logistic Center on (US 92). It was a redevelopment of a 40-acre truck stop that was a blighted area, and now it's a fantastic jobs center."
Kros said the cooperation from City of Lakeland and Polk County was essential to the project, which was initiated by Seefried Industrial Properties in 2015. He said the investment at BridgeWater would be in the $65-$70 million range at full buildout.
"This is a very complicated redevelopment, and it's because of Lakeland's pro-business attitude that we were able to make it work," Kros said. "They were very cooperative and helped us overcome a lot of issues."
The 180-acre site would accommodate two high-cube warehouse buildings, the largest of which would be 1 million square feet. It would be constructed in two phases and would include 583 employee parking spaces and 333 trailer spaces.
"What attracted us to this site would be the location, the access to I-4, and then the ability to build up to a million square feet under one roof,"Kros said. "With e-commerce, more users are locating larger and larger facilities in Central Florida to have quicker delivery time. The change in the market has been pretty dramatic."
He noted that since 2014, developers have completed eight leases larger than 600,000 square feet in Central Florida, and seven of them are e-commerce related.
Ridge is now seeking an environmental resource permit from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to fill 20.56 acres to wetlands for the build, but most of those wetlands were created as ponds for the golf course. Ridge proposes creating 9.54 acres of freshwater marsh in areas adjacent to existing wetlands to create a larger, contiguous wetland system.
"Without impacting the wetlands, the site could be used for next to nothing," Kros said.
Ridge agreed to maintain a 200-foot buffer between the southernmost warehouse and the adjacent Villages at BridgeWater neighborhood. The developer also will build a landscaped berm with an average height of 13 feet to provide additional screening and noise abatement.
Kros said the goal is to break ground in the fourth quarter and deliver the first phase (690,000 SF) within 12 months.
Bob Krueger, Southeast managing principal for Brennan, said Monday that rainy weather has delayed the concrete work, but as soon as the slab is poured and walls are up the company would begin to market the site.
In May, California-based Xebec acquired a 60-acre site on S.R. 33 and announced plans for a $39 million, 533,000-square-foot spec warehouse facility.
"The project is located in a submarket that is less than 45 minutes from both Tampa and Orlando, two of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas," CEO Randy Kendrick said. "The corridor between those two cities is home to nearly 207 million square feet of industrial real estate space and we believe the region will continue to experience demand for facilities of this size because of its growing demographic base and reach."
Prologis also won approval in May from the Auburndale City Council for a 1 million square-foot e-commerce logistic center just south of I-4.