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Stonemont Financial

PRESS / February 27, 2024

Meeting the Needs of the Industrial Users of Various Sizes: An Orlando Story

| Commercial Property Executive

Avery Dorr on Stonemont’s strategy for attracting Walt Disney World suppliers and other customers to this new campus.

Industrial tenants seeking small- to mid-size space in good locations have been having a hard time finding the right facilities. Recognizing this need, Stonemont Financial Group broke ground late last year on 429 Business Center—an industrial campus in Orlando that is set to encompass 259,000 square feet across seven buildings, which will be able to accommodate users as small as 3,000 square feet and as large as 79,000 square feet.

The developer hired HGR Construction as the general contractor, partnered with JLL for leasing services and brought onboard SCOA Real Estate as equity partner.

Built on two sites fronting Ocoee Apopka Road, 429 Business Center could house users who supply goods to Walt Disney World, the entertainment destination located less than 20 miles away. But it could also serve e-commerce distributors and accommodate users within a smaller size range.

To find out more about the particularities of this project and how it will serve the area’s industrial needs when completed in the fourth quarter of this year, we reached out to Stonemont Financial Group Vice President of Development and Acquisitions Avery Dorr.

What features will set 429 Business Center apart from similar projects in the vicinity?

Dorr: The development will be a mix of grade-level and dock-high buildings and will attract a wide range of users. As developers struggle to capitalize projects in today’s interest rate environment, there is limited future competition for a new project of this scale in this highly sought-after submarket. We are confident that demand for this product will continue to outpace supply.

In designing 429 Business Center, we thoughtfully incorporated the needs of our past and present clients and are certain that future tenants will see the competitive advantage of growing their business here. In addition, the project will include move-in ready offices for prospective users and ample power in the base buildings.

Many industrial projects today also incorporate recreational facilities for employees such as basketball courts, outdoor parks etc. Does the 429 Business Center project include similar features, and is this a direction Stonemont Financial Group intends to explore in future projects, as well?

Dorr: 429 Business Center is located adjacent to Palm Park, an amenity that will provide future tenants and their employees with walking trails around a scenic lake, just steps from the property.

We know that amenities like this are a huge driver for prospective users, as attracting and maintaining talent and employees is a key component to their business. In each new project we plan, we seek out nearby amenities that will resonate with our intended users and will make the property an enjoyable place to work.

429 Business Center will be fairly close to Walt Disney World. What does this mean for the overall success of the project?

Dorr: Our project provides direct access via Florida State Road 429 to one of the largest economic drivers in Central Florida, Walt Disney World. As one of the largest consumer bases in the country, many of our future users could include providers and suppliers of Walt Disney World. For example, this could be a tenant that supplies roller coaster components, hotel towels to resorts, or plastic utensils to restaurants. All of these goods can be delivered to Walt Disney World in a timely manner from 429 Business Center given the close proximity and convenient transportation access.

Can you provide insight into any ongoing discussions with prospective tenants for the space?

Dorr: We’ve already had great conversations with a number of top-tier prospective tenants. These include retailers and e-commerce distributors, building supply and construction companies—such as a local roofing, cabinetry or flooring contractor—home product suppliers such as a kitchen appliance suppliers or furniture distributors, components distributors including auto parts, roller coaster parts or HVAC components as well as food distributors, from dry foods to restaurant equipment. With the range of industries that are prominent in Central Florida, the door is wide open for any of these user types to find success at a project of this caliber in this location.

According to CommercialEdge data, there are currently 83 industrial projects in Ocoee, Fl., in the same size range as your project. What is driving demand for industrial projects of this size in the area? How will 429 Business Center accommodate this demand?

Dorr: The demand is driven primarily by population growth and an increase in Central Florida’s consumer base. However, in order to accurately measure demand, you also have to assess supply. Most of the competing projects are bulk industrial projects. These buildings are not attractive to the average-size user and will not lease to those looking for less than 50,000 square feet.

429 Business Center… is an infill, shallow-bay project and future competition is very limited. Infill, industrial-zoned land is hard to come by today. Most of the easy-to-develop ‘shovel-ready’ sites have already been developed.

In many locations, we struggle to achieve the proper zoning and entitlements. In the few cases in which we do find proper zoning and entitlements, there are many site-specific issues that must be resolved, such as protected wetlands—which must go through the mitigation process that takes 12 to 24 months—environmental remediation; protected species including sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises and bald eagles; availability of adequate off-site utilities including water, sewer and power; and access—turn lanes and roadway infrastructure. With 429 Business Center, we are fortunate to have received permits in a timely manner and to have already broken ground.

Tell us more about the value of working with the right team to ensure the success of an industrial development.

Dorr: Having a team you trust and share mutual respect with is integral to the success of a project, because this allows a continued stream of transparent communication, effective collaboration and overall optimism toward the outcome of the project. A team without communication and trust will result in miscommunication, which could lead to delays in the schedule, budget errors or even safety concerns.

What are Stonemont Financial Group’s plans for 2024?

Dorr: Stonemont is seeking more infill land to develop shallow-bay industrial product in high barrier-to-entry markets across the state of Florida. Our key target markets include South Florida—Fort Lauderdale and Miami—Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, Lakeland, Orlando and Jacksonville. Tenants under 50,000 square feet remain very active in these markets and the available inventory in this size range remains limited.

With capital becoming more expensive over the past two years, a slowdown of new construction has settled in. To what extent do you expect the current economic conditions to impact your plans?

Dorr: Stonemont is a large institution with a strong track record of success in industrial development. While deals are more difficult to finance and the underwriting has changed, we have found that our financing partners understand the lack of supply and remain bullish on our asset class, specifically infill industrial. So, as long as we continue our proven recipe of finding infill locations in high-demand locations, we will continue our path of growth despite unfavorable market conditions.