Liberty Property Trust Builds 1.2 MSF Big-Box Industrial Space in Eastern Pa.

Capitalizing on the need for big-box industrial spaces, Liberty Property Trust is constructing a 1.2 million-square-foot speculative distribution property in Bethlehem, Pa., and has named Cushman & Wakefield Inc. as the exclusive leasing agent for the $62 million project.

February 9, 2012
By Nicholas Ziegler, News Editor

Capitalizing on the need for big-box industrial spaces, Liberty Property Trust is constructing a 1.2 million-square-foot speculative distribution property in Bethlehem, Pa., and has named Cushman & Wakefield Inc. as the exclusive leasing agent for the project. Built for $62 million, Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII is one of the largest industrial construction projects currently underway nationwide.

“Despite continued limited speculative development nationwide, we have no doubt that the investment here is timely and prudent,” Bob Kiel, senior vice president with Liberty, said.

Cushman will focus on leasing up the LEED Core & Shell-rated building that sits on a 110-acre former Bethlehem Steel site.

“This building shows us two things,” Jim Dieter, executive vice president and head of industrial brokerage for Cushman & Wakefield Inc. told Commercial Property Executive. “It shows that the market is back and that there’s renewed confidence. And we’re also seeing a verification that there’s an acute shortage of big-box distribution space.”

According to Stephen Cooper of Cushman’s industrial practice, the Lehigh Valley has an industrial vacancy rate of just 7.6 percent, with no big-box buildings currently available. Comparatively, the national vacancy rate sat at an average of 9.2 percent at the end of 2011. “Corporations continue to focus on lowering expenses and increasing profits by consolidating distribution networks into super-regional centers,” Cooper said. “Over the past three years, this has led to the absorption of Eastern Pennsylvania’s large industrial facilities.”

Liberty Property Trust, based in Malvern, Pa., has been involved in the Lehigh Valley market for 32 years. Today, the $5.9 billion real estate investment trust owns approximately 16 million square feet of industrial space in the region, with an occupancy rate of 99.4 percent.