Opportunity knocks in Rogers

  • Article by: DON JACOBSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2012 - 10:40 PM

Liberty Industrial Park has the land and location to welcome a big distribution warehouse.

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Liberty Property Trust’s Josh Budish at the site in Rogers where a distribution warehouse may be built.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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In the Twin Cities industrial real estate market the big fish are swimming in the northwest suburb Rogers, and developer Liberty Property Trust is aiming to land a trophy-sized catch.

The Pennsylvania-based commercial real estate firm, which owns and manages nearly 3.7 million square feet of properties in its Minnesota region, has been setting the stage for a major new entrant in the booming Rogers industrial sector -- a state-of-the-art distribution warehouse within its Liberty Industrial Park at Diamond Lake development.

Though nothing official has been announced yet, conditions are ripe for the company to hook a major tenant for a new building in the 55-acre park, 1.5 miles east of Interstate 94 about 25 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis.

In a sign that something is in the works, the company received city approvals this month for a new 12.9-acre lot that was subdivided from a 29-acre parcel -- just the right size for a new building of about 225,000 square feet. The move will allow the firm to move quickly with construction should a deal be struck.

Liberty Property Trust leasing representative Josh Budish wouldn't confirm that anything has been finalized, but he said the Twin Cities market can't currently accommodate big, corporate users who are seeking sizable chunks of modern warehouse space, especially those with high ceilings.

"There's really a lack of quality 32-foot-clear newer industrial space in the northwest, and I think we're in a position to take advantage of that," he said.

Because Liberty was able to obtain the land from a distressed former owner at a low price, Budish said the company is comfortable with spending extra to offer a high-end product that could attract an anchor tenant looking for the most up-to-date features.

Budish added that the warehouse will be certified as energy-efficient and will have plenty of glass to let in sunlight.

Forklift-friendly

It will also include a "speed bay" -- a column-less avenue within the building that lets forklifts move along unimpeded and thus maximizes the movement of merchandise.

"No other building that I know of has one of those," he said. "It's one more bell-and-whistle to add to the project to set us apart."

A group of prospective users are looking for up to 1 million square feet of modern bulk distribution space as they bid to upgrade their supply chain logistics but are being stymied by a lack of options, Budish said.

The new effort is part of larger commitment Liberty is making at the Rogers industrial hub. In September it purchased the nearby Rogers Distribution Center, a 147,000-square-foot, multitenant warehouse built in 2008 in a move to enter the booming build-to-suit industrial market.

Advantages of the site

The Rogers hub has been quickly expanding over the last dozen years after getting a kick-start early in the last decade with the coming of the three Diamond Lake Industrial Center buildings from Marfield, Belgarde and Yaffe Co.

Since then, the hub has attracted such large-scale corporate users as Graco, Walgreen, Room & Board, Budweiser, Reinhardt Foods and Archway Co., thanks mainly to its easy interstate access, cheap land costs and an abundant local labor pool, according to Herb Tousley, director of real estate programs at the University of St. Thomas.

"The thing about Rogers is that you can serve the Twin Cities and its suburbs as well as central Minnesota from there," he said. "It's a great location for distribution for just about the whole central part of the state."

There is lots of room to construct the massive buildings required to serve the needs of the biggest companies, he added -- one of only a few such spots within easy striking distance of the metro area.

"Also, the city of Rogers is very pro-development and is willing to work with developers," Tousley said. "Some suburbs are much more difficult to work with."

Don Jacobson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer. He can be reached at 651-501-4931.

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