Friday, June 22, 2012

Sprawling warehouses proposed in Upper Macungie

"A commercial real estate company that has been selling suburban offices and investing in industrial property wants to build two sprawling warehouses in Upper Macungie, its latest projects in a recent Lehigh Valley building spree.
Officials with Liberty Property Trust went before the Upper Macungie Township Planning Commission Wednesday night to propose building two 1-million-square-foot warehouses on more than 200 acres on the Air Products campus off of Mill Creek Road. Who would occupy the buildings has yet to be determined.

Based in Malvern, Liberty Property Trust owns 595 industrial and office properties totaling 65.1 million square feet, including several industrial properties in the Lehigh Valley. The company has been on a speculative building spree in the Valley, beginning projects before it has tenants lined up.

Such speculative construction has been rare since the Great Recession hit, since commercial property owners struggled to keep properties full and didn't want to add space in a soft market.
But Liberty has launched an aggressive building campaign. The Upper Macungie projects come on the heels of new warehouses in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in Bethlehem.

Pete Reinke, vice president of regional development at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said commercial landlords have to build properties before they have tenants because companies have to make decisions quickly about where to locate. Prospective tenants can't wait several months to a year for a building to be constructed, he said. They want to know what is immediately available.

Ken Molony, director of community development for Upper Macungie Township, said Liberty Property representatives, who presented a sketch plan Wednesday, could not say how much traffic the warehouses are expected to generate.

"The biggest hurdle will be solving the traffic issues," said Molony, adding that the project is in its early stages. "No one knows yet what kind of traffic impact it would bring."

Liberty has been shedding office space and investing in industrial properties. In April, the company sold for $49 properties for $195 million, mostly office buildings, in Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey."

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