Construction crews in Tuskegee, Ala., are working on the first phase of a master-planned industrial park that's been years in the making.
The 683-acre Regional East Alabama Logistics (REAL) Park in Macon County is expected to dramatically boost economic growth in the area when completed.
"The park is being developed in three phases," said Joe Turnham, director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA). "The large acreage affords the community and developer the ability to offer site arrangements and clusters of larger acreage lots that accommodate buildings up to one million square feet, or buildings of 200,000 square feet. Large parcels along the I-85 corridor are becoming increasingly rare, and this large acreage park allows Macon County and REAL Park to compete in a limited space."
The project, an effort led by Farpoint Development and the local Bassett family, is situated on a portion of the existing Beck's Turf Farm. Turnham said now is the right time to build.
"Our nation and the state are very limited on available inventory of warehouse, logistics and manufacturing space that is quick to market," said Turnham. "It's hard to find lease space of this magnitude anywhere in the corridor. Some experts say America is one billion square feet short of viable inventory of space. By having partners like Farpoint and Opportunity Alabama, we are able to offer ready-space in a hungry market and win projects for our community."
The structure is being erected to attract new tenants to the project.
"The REAL Park and this first building are located at Exit 42 on I-85 in the growth area of the corridor," said Turnham. "Having available, Class-A industrial space ready for occupancy puts Macon County and its partners in a unique and favorable position to win projects that need to be in the corridor right away. Speed to market is essential in today's environment."
Turnham noted the spec building sets the tone and quality for the type of development REAL Park will become. Building 2 and 3 are expected to emerge quickly once the first building is finished.
"REAL Park has three phases planned and can change and accelerate that model based on the market and demand," he said. "We see a park that can ultimately accommodate a dozen or more buildings and at least five million square feet."
The estimated price tag will change with build-out and customer specification, with 169,000 sq. ft. expandable up to roughly 250,000 sq. ft. Costs vary, but range from approximately $15-25 million.
The effort is primarily a private development with participation from Opportunity Alabama and its new investment fund. The local public communities and utilities are providing secondary funding of utilities and infrastructure.
"The genesis of this project is based on relationships, dreams and daring entrepreneurship," said Turnham. "It's a model of how communities, investors, developers, utilities, contractors and other stakeholders can pull off a regional gem and create inventory for the state of Alabama to market, as well.
The spec building is designed by MCA Architects of South Carolina and is a versatile space with tilt-wall construction that can be adapted for various uses. It can easily be divided into smaller spaces for multiple individual tenants.
Turnham also is pleased with the expected economic impact.
"The park at full development portends to create over 1,000 new jobs, and up to $500 million or more in new investments. Furthermore, the new tax revenues and payrolls will allow Tuskegee-Macon County to invest in infrastructure, education and workforce development, as well as attract new retail and housing for a new generation."
According to Philip Williams, CCIM, Farpoint's director of development, "The site is very conducive to Class-A industrial development, and from that standpoint, it is easily developed. The biggest challenges on this project are the same other developers face with increased construction costs, a tight labor market and materials availability, which we have mitigated to a large degree.
"We are currently under construction on the first building and are continuing design on the overall site. We have completed the majority of site work and will be pouring the slab in several weeks. We will continue construction from now until the first quarter of 2023, when we will deliver the first building."
Williams pointed out, "Tilt-wall construction is the preferred method of construction for this type of industrial building in this part of the U.S., and has a useful life greater than 50 years, representing a solid structure that will attract high quality industrial users seeking a Class-A product.
"We will be completing offsite traffic modifications, including additional turn lanes and more enhancements as the industrial park continues to expand. The project will have an ALDOT standard road that spans throughout the entire industrial park. This is a unique opportunity to serve such an important community and help bring jobs to an area that has often been overlooked and underinvested."
The park is brokered by Cushman-Wakefield and is being built by Doster Construction of Birmingham.
"Doster is one of Alabama's top construction companies, and has been a super professional partner," said Turnham. "They have a superior design-build team and move quickly and nimbly to meet client needs."
Doster senior project manager Erik Oxford noted that tilt-up construction requires significant organization and collaboration on the building site.
"The chronological steps that need to be taken for a tilt-up project are site evaluation, engineering, footings and floor slabs, forming tilt-up panels, steel placement, embeds and inserts, concrete placement, panel erection and panel finishing."
Completed construction includes all under slab utilities and interior footings, but much work remains.
"Currently, we are working on the site installing drainage ditches, domestic water line, fire water line and installing the Industrial Park Drive main roadway," said Oxford. "We are pouring our continuous footings in preparation to start pouring the slab."
Tasks yet to be carried out include forming and pouring the tilt wall, erecting the tilt wall, erecting the structural steel and receiving and installing the TPO roof.
Oxford said site work is a lengthy process, because of the size of the property.
"Concrete will be time-consuming as well, as we are pouring the slab that is 168,480 square feet, and then the tilt walls. The total volume of concrete will be approximately 5,200 cubic yards."
One of the big advantages for crews has been working on an existing sod farm.
"The site was relatively flat. No clearing was involved. We were able to strip the topsoil and go to work."
A total of 24,707 cu. yds. of fill material will be moved during construction, along with 24,215 cu. yds. of topsoil.
There has been no roadwork to date; however, crews will install a site road, as well as a southbound right-hand turn lane on HWY 186 into the park.
Major milestones for the project will include the final slab pour, erection of tilt walls, erection of structural steel and completion of the roof.
Equipment on the job includes excavators, bulldozers, rock trucks, a 250-ton crawler crane, manlifts and all-terrain forklifts. Main materials include concrete, steel, roof insulation and TPO roof.
"It's truly an honor to be associated with a project that has the potential to provide such an economic impact to the Macon County community," said Oxford.
Turnham added, "This project is a dream and case study of how public and private collaboration make new economic reality. As Governor Kay Ivey said at the June groundbreaking ceremony, this is good for Alabama." CEG