Henry County industrial property getting bigger

Speculative building at Lambert Farms Logistics Park in Henry County. Source: MetLife, Panattoni and JLL.

Speculative building at Lambert Farms Logistics Park in Henry County. Source: MetLife, Panattoni and JLL.

An industrial park in Henry County being developed by insurance giant MetLife and developer Panattoni is about to get a whole lot bigger.

The development team and real estate services firm JLL said Wednesday they won rezoning of an additional 318 acres for the second phase of the large-scale Lambert Farms Logistics Park near McDonough.

Industrial real estate – mainly warehousing, light manufacturing and distribution centers in metro Atlanta – has gotten hot after suffering through a difficult recession. It’s also a bellwether of the economy as consumers and businesses purchasing more goods.

The Atlanta market is also hot with investors, including a recent purchase by a company tied to Texas’ Perot family.

The Lambert Farms project, about 20 miles southeast of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, is largely undeveloped. A 750,000-square-foot building with space for expansion was recently completed. It was built “on spec” or in anticipation of future tenants.

The additional rezoning will bring the site to about 500 total acres of industrial land, with entitlements that would permit up to 8 million square feet of industrial space. That makes it one of the bigger “megasites” in metro Atlanta, according to the JLL team.

The Atlanta area’s highways, rail lines and airport, along with its proximity to the port of Savannah, have long made it a distribution hub. Atlanta is the ninth biggest U.S. metro, but it has the fourth-largest amount of industrial space, according to CBRE Research.

Wit Truitt, a JLL executive vice president who’s a leader of the leasing team on Lambert Farms, said 10.5 million square feet of industrial space was built in the metro area in the first nine months of 2015, and another 17 million square feet of space is under construction. That newly-built or in-the-pipeline product would combine to make up the equivalent of nearly 20 large shopping malls.

Another 16 million square feet-worth of deals is in the pipeline, Truitt said, and many of the tenants are looking for larger blocks of space than they did before the downturn.

The demand is likely to grow as the Savannah port is deepened and bigger ships with more freight starts passing through the bustling coastal Georgia port.

E-commerce companies, retailers, food processors, grocers and others use metro Atlanta as a distribution point for local and regional customers.

Companies in metro Atlanta gobbled up about 12 million square feet of industrial space through the first three quarters of the year, Truitt said.

Vacancy ticked up slightly to 8.5 percent in the third quarter, but that’s partly to do with speculative projects coming to market, according to CBRE Research.

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