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Everyone is becoming more accustomed to seeing small trucks roam their neighborhoods, delivering goods ordered online.

But even as the coronavirus pandemic greatly intensified demand for these services, most municipalities are reluctant to approve proposals to develop new industrial service facilities where distributors and other businesses can store, maintain or dispatch vehicles, heavy equipment or bulk materials.

“Nobody wants to live next to a truck terminal,” JLL Senior Associate Kate Coxworth said. “That not-in-my-backyard, or NIMBY, attitude keeps new supply low, sending rental rates soaring for existing industrial service facilities in markets across the U.S.”

That’s helped in the past 12 months to draw in a new cadre of developers and investors who now see these facilities as an essential component of the rapidly expanding industrial sector.

“These facilities are the skeleton of the supply chain, and there are more people making the discovery that there are real opportunities here,” Industrial Outdoor Ventures CEO Tom Barbera said.

Barbera started Schaumburg, Illinois-based IOV about five years ago, and for most of that time, only three or four other firms specialized in acquiring and developing properties within the niche sector, he said. But things changed in 2021. A new group of six to eight firms is now out there and has made the market for industrial service facilities more competitive.

“And I think we’ll continue to see new folks get involved,” Barbera said.

National investment players have also joined the fray. IOV formed a joint venture in March with San Francisco-based Stockbridge, planning to make between $100M and $200M of acquisitions annually. IOV completed 24 acquisitions in its first four years, but thanks to the new joint venture, it has picked up the pace and has closed 16 new acquisitions since February.

That includes the 39K SF 1401 North Farnsworth Ave. in Aurora, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, and the 22K SF 4212 Perry Blvd. in Whitestown, Indiana, an Indianapolis suburb. Both are 100% occupied by MacQueen, a fire truck and emergency equipment provider that uses the properties for truck maintenance and repair.

“By the end of this year, IOV could close on another 20 properties and be in at least a dozen major metro areas, including South Florida, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Houston,” Barbera said.

 

JLL also recognizes ISF’s growing importance as an asset class, and plans to establish a group of specialists that will handle such transactions, according to Coxworth, who helped represent IOV in the Aurora and Whitestown deals.

“JLL researchers have started tracking the nationwide vacancy rate among ISF properties,” Coxworth said.

It now stands at 3.1%, and with many municipalities expected to continue blocking new facilities, especially in dense residential areas now served by so many delivery trucks, investors can be confident the market will stay tight. In addition, ISF tenants promise steady returns.

“Almost all of the tenants are signing 10-year leases because they all understand that this is a hard commodity to find, and once you do, you better hold onto it,” Coxworth said.

These tenants have shown a willingness to pay much more in rent as the industrial boom continues, according to Timber Hill Group Managing Partner Cary Goldman, who founded the Chicago-based firm in 2018. The first truck parking facility he bought was near southwest suburban Stickney and Chicago’s Midway Airport, and tenants typically were paying about $135 per month for each space.

“But spaces in the same area now go for between $275 and $300,” Goldman said. “And spaces near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport can cost $375 and are trending toward $400. What other sector has seen its rental rates more than double in just a few years? Although that will certainly help bring in more investors, it’s a management-intensive business, and actually operating industrial service facilities will probably stay with specialists.”

Unlike the new distribution warehouses so popular with investors, ISFs sometimes have hundreds of tenants, each needing just one or a few truck spaces.

“It really is akin to self-storage,”  Goldman said. “And setting rental rates isn’t easy, as no one tracks the information needed to generate comps. There is no CoStar for truck parking places, The information is not easy to obtain and it takes a lot of real ground-level research. It’s also not a trophy asset,” he added. “It doesn’t look pretty on a brochure. It’s a lot of gravel behind a fence.”

Timber Hill Group now owns 16 assets, according to Goldman, and like IOV, plans to keep buying. It formed a joint venture in September with Chicago-based Champion Realty Advisors, and over the next 12 to 18 months the venture plans to acquire $150M of assets in infill locations near road interchanges and rail networks.

He said he expects that the market for ISFs will soon get even tighter in most metro areas. Not only is it tough to get the proper zoning and other approvals from cities for new truck parks and storage areas, but ISF owners can frequently score deals to transform existing spaces.

“Supply is actually coming off the market, because it’s being converted to other uses, an added bonus for ISF owners, Goldman said. “It provides good cash flow while you wait for great development opportunities.”

 

Source: Bisnow

 

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Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics and founder of Economy.com told more than 1,000 attendees of NAIOP’s CRE Converge conference taking place in Miami Beach, that while the pandemic is altering the U.S. economy, changes in store bode well for commercial real estate.

On the positive side, the economy has recovered 17 million of the 22 million jobs that were lost due to the pandemic. The policy response on the part of the Federal Reserve, Congress and the White House, including maintaining low short- and long-term interest rates, the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, have collectively kept the economy from failing.

“I’m assuming that the pandemic is going to continue to wind down, and that with each new wave the disruptions to the economy will be less significant. Over the course of the next 18-24 months, the pandemic doesn’t go away but it largely fades away in terms of what it means in terms of our work and lives,” Zandi said.

Zandi noted that however it shakes out, the infrastructure spending packages will also be beneficial to the economy. And he said that with respect to monetary policy, the Fed will slowly take its foot off the monetary accelerator – raising short term interest rates by spring of 2023 and tapering the quantitative easing of buying bonds.

The pandemic has not only accelerated certain trends, it is causing permanent shifts. These include remote work, less domestic travel generally, less business travel and an increasing net migration from urban cores.

Prior to the pandemic, a net of 275,000 people on average were leaving urban cores in the U.S. to live in other locales; during the pandemic, that number jumped to more than 600,000.

Zandi also identified the risks inherent in the post-pandemic economy:

  • The Delta variant of COVID-19 has unnerved consumers and workers.
  • Fiscal policy is at risk with Congress threatening to not fund the government’s fiscal year, which begins Oct 1.
  • Housing prices are stretched and possibly primed for a correction as interest rates begin to increase.
  • Maybe not today, but at some point down the road, government debt and deficits will become a problem.
  • Supply chain shortages continue to make it difficult to obtain building supplies and consumer goods.

Meanwhile the pandemic has also fueled a significant rise in productivity.

“There are fundamental things going on in the economy that argue for stronger productivity growth. Businesses are investing in labor-saving software, baby boomers are retiring, and the workforce is becoming younger,” Zandi said. “That’s a big deal for the economy. It goes to profits, wages, and our ability to address our fiscal policies.”

 

Source: GlobeSt.