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Expanding shipping infrastructure is lifting commercial real estate

By Nate Delesline

Jul 28, 2016 | 5:34 PM

Virginia's business climate consistently delivers for Amazon.

"Generally, in Virginia, everywhere we've gone, we've found an abundance of talent and we've been successful, and I would fully expect we'd find the same level of talent in Hampton Roads in this area, that we've found in other parts of Virginia," said Mike Grella, the online retail giant's first director of economic development.

Grella was among a half dozen featured speakers at the Re:Port Conference in Virginia Beach on July 28. Presented by Inside Business with the support of two dozen sponsors, the event highlighted the links between larger cargo ships, expanding infrastructure and opportunities in commercial real estate.

Amazon has three fulfillment centers in Virginia in Chester, Petersburg and Sterling. Asked if Hampton Roads might at some point be home to the company's fourth such center, Grella demurred, saying he would defer to the company's site selection staff on specifics, but he added, "I can tell you that generally in Virginia, everywhere we've gone, we've found an abundance of talent and we've been successful."

Conference leaders also highlighted two recently announced projects that are indicative of the market's strength. In Portsmouth, InterChange Group on Wednesday celebrated the groundbreaking on a 200,000-square-foot warehouse. The InterChange Portsmouth Logistics Center is estimated to bring $11 million in private investment to Portsmouth, city officials said.

InterChange owns and operates more than 1.6 million square feet of industrial facilities in Front Royal, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Winchester, the city said in an announcement.

"The Port of Virginia's cargo volumes are continuing to grow, and InterChange's decision to develop a warehousing operation in Portsmouth helps to expand the logistics infrastructure the port needs to help sustain its growth," stated John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, in a statement.

And in Suffolk, Panattoni Development Co., a privately held, full-service real estate development company, announced it plans to develop its first industrial project in Virginia, at Virginia Regional Commerce Park. Construction on the company's 300,000-square-foot Class A industrial building is slated to begin this summer, and the building should be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2017.

Both projects, according to officials, are speculative developments.

Speaking at the conference, Reinhart said port, local and state leaders have a clear path forward and are working all angles to meet continued industry growth by providing quality, efficient service and adequate infrastructure. The Port of Virginia, Reinhart said, is primed to take advantage – and working to stay ahead – of the rising tide of growth and business opportunities that ever-larger cargo ships are bringing.

"We have a strategic location, we have the water depth, we don't have overhead height restrictions. We have a plan and a funding mechanism for capacity improvements. We have two really good Class I rail partners, and we have road infrastructure that's improving," Reinhart said. "We are business friendly. We're trying to be a partner in developing your business."





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