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Developer Keating Resources sees opportunity in Tampa e-commerce distribution centers

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stands next to a shovel at Tuesday's groundbreaking for a new e-commerce distribution center. Developer Keating Resources is building the 179,080-square-foot project about three miles east of downtown Tampa. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stands next to a shovel at Tuesday's groundbreaking for a new e-commerce distribution center. Developer Keating Resources is building the 179,080-square-foot project about three miles east of downtown Tampa. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
Published Oct. 23, 2018

TAMPA — When you buy that shirt from Amazon.com, the box doesn't come to your doorstep directly from Amazon's 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Ruskin.

Instead, it first goes to a smaller distribution center where, in the wee hours, it is routed for what's known as the "last mile" of delivery in the morning. With e-commerce growing, demand is rising for these distribution centers. But in Tampa, the last new one west of U.S. 41 was built around the time that Amazon was first making a name for itself selling books.

That's about to change.

Developer Keating Resources is starting construction on a 179,080-square-foot distribution center at E 3301 Clark St., about three miles east of downtown Tampa.

The $17 million project is being built on spec, meaning that construction is starting before tenants have signed leases. But Keating CEO Gerard J. Keating said Tuesday he's not worried.

"I expect this to be fully leased before construction's completed by the end of 2019," he said. "The population is growing so fast, and we haven't kept up with distribution centers. There has not been a new distribution center built in urban Tampa in over 20 years. If you study where Amazon and others are going, they're shoe-horning into antiquated facilities."

Already, Keating said, Amazon has two "last mile" facilities — one 90,000 square feet, another 20,000 square feet — within 2 miles of his project.

"They're here, along with other e-fulfillment firms, and we've already had strong interest from many companies, because this doesn't exist," he said.

VIDEO: Have a look inside the 1-million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Ruskin

As a building designed to accommodate last-mile distributors, the center will include access for up to six tenants, and adequate drive lanes for many trucks moving goods for different tenants. It also will include spaces for vehicles operating through Uber and Lyft, as well as autonomous vehicles, to stage and load inside and outside the building to pick up packages for home delivery.

"What we've learned from working with Amazon and other last-mile e-commerce fulfillment centers is typically there are bottlenecks and traffic issues that happen when you mix tenants in a multi-user building," said John B. Jackson, the Cushman & Wakefield director in charge of leasing for the project. "This park is designed so Amazon and other last-mile users can access their space right next to a traditional distribution user without impacting traffic. It's really designed with the future in mind, and it's the right location."

Ninety percent of region's population is within a 45-minute drive of the 16-acre location.

Industrial vacancy rates are running below 5 percent regionally, and for distribution centers west of Lakeland that number is even lower, Jackson said. With industrial rents on the rise for 86 straight months, Jackson said the asking rent will be above $6 per square foot, triple-net.

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Developers say the project will be the first distribution center in Hillsborough County to be built to LEED certification standards for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Green Building Council. That means it will come with roof insulation to reduce energy consumption, charging stations for electric cars, motion-activated LED lights, solar panels, bike stations, showers for employees who ride their bikes to work and native Florida landscaping.

Including the new building, Keating Resources has bought distribution centers covering a combined total of more than 700,000 square feet since December 2015. CEO Gerald Keating is bullish enough on Tampa that he plans to move his company's Florida headquarters from Naples to Tampa in early 2019. (The company also has offices about 200 miles northwest of Omaha, Neb.)

"I want to build more buildings," he told a small crowd at a ground-breaking on Tuesday. "Please help me find more land, so we can keep investing in Tampa."

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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