Market Snapshot: Spec Development Drives Industrial Investment in the Chicago Metro Area

Following years of recovery from the Great Recession, Chicago’s economy is expanding at a steady pace.

By Ioana Neamt, Associate Editor

Chicago - Industrial Supply and Demand Q4 2014

Chicago – Industrial Supply and Demand Q4 2014

Following years of recovery from the Great Recession, Chicago’s economy is expanding at a steady pace. 2014 was a very busy year for investment in the Chicago metropolitan area, especially in the industrial sector. Speculative development is the main force driving the industrial market in the area, as recent data from Marcus & Millichap suggests. There is also high demand for distribution facilities and warehouses, as well as older industrial buildings that can be converted into hi-tech office space, such as the Fulton Market Cold Storage facility that will become Google’s new Midwest headquarters.

There is reason to be optimistic about Chicago’s industrial real estate market, as metrowide vacancy has dropped to the lowest level in more than a decade in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Marcus & Millichap. The market has also experienced the lowest availability rate in almost 15 years–7.2 percent, according to CBRE research data. Construction is booming along the I-55, out-of-state investors are drawn to the area, and the 5 million square feet of space currently under construction is scheduled for delivery in 2015.

Leasing activity during 2014 experienced a 7 percent increase year-over-year, totaling 37.6 million square feet, according to recent data from CBRE. Bob’s Discount Furniture entered the Chicago market with a 751,966-square-foot lease in Shorewood, while Creative Werks, LLC signed a 400,000-square-foot lease in Bartlett. Notable transactions include the sale of Mirvac Industrial Trust, a 23-building portfolio totaling 4,980,546 square feet of industrial space in the Chicago area.

CBRE reports that, at the end of Q4 2014, there were 26 industrial projects totaling 11.3 million square feet under construction, the highest level since 2007. Nearly 58 percent of that total (or 7.6 million square feet) is speculative development. The largest development project that started in Q4 2014 was a 377,300-square-foot warehouse/distribution facility for Niagra Bottling, LLC at Lakeview Corporate Park in Pleasant Prairie, according to Colliers International. Two buildings currently under construction for Amazon in Kenosha are also spurring additional investment in the surrounding area.

Speculative development in the area is expected to remain strong throughout 2015, with low interest rates continuing to draw investors to the market. The high demand and limited supply will, however, drive up pricing, according to Colliers, and rents will continue to rise, especially in the case of Class A properties.

Chart courtesy of Marcus & Millichap

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