River Ridge board considers proposal for a 118-acre site

With new industrial facilities taking shape in River Ridge Commerce Center, area developers are taking a closer look at opportunities in the 6,000-acre site.

Commercial Real Estate Louisville Business First By Sarah Jeffords  –  Business First Staff Writer

Nov 27, 2006 Updated Nov 22, 2006, 9:43am EST

At the top of the list is veteran commercial real estate broker and developer Lee Wilburn, who wants to buy 118 acres within the Southern Indiana office and industrial park and build at least 1.5 million square feet of distribution space during the next four years.

Wilburn, president of Louisville firm Crossdock Development Inc., plans to pay about $3.79 million to buy the property, plus invest another $45 million in development and construction costs.

He pitched his development plan to River Ridge Development Authority board members at their Nov. 20 meeting.

River Ridge officials seemed open to Wilburn’s proposal, which is similar to a deal they reached with Louisville development firm Capstone Realty Inc. last year. But members delayed making a decision this week, preferring to revisit the issue in mid-December after they have had an opportunity to check out other sites Wilburn has developed.

Developer has been active in Northport, Cedar Grove

Crossdock Development’s most recent projects include the 93,000-square-foot MedVenture Technology Corp. facility in Jeffersonville’s NorthPort Business Centre and a $25 million speculative distribution facility in Shepherdsville’s Cedar Grove Business Park.

The Class A, institutional-grade space that Wilburn has proposed for River Ridge would be patterned after the Bullitt County project, which is slated to get under way within the next few weeks. Jeffersonville firm Kovert Hawkins Architects Inc., which designed the structure in Cedar Grove, also oversaw the design of the proposed River Ridge facility.

Wilburn said the River Ridge space would be suitable for manufacturing or distribution uses, although he expects a distribution tenant would be more likely.

He added that he already is in talks with two unidentified national companies that are looking for distribution space. One is interested in as much as 600,000 square feet, and the other is eyeing up to 800,000 square feet.

He said River Ridge is an “excellent piece of property” that is especially attractive because of its easy access and proximity to Interstate 65.

Plus, as a commercial real estate broker and president of Louisville-based Commonwealth Commercial Real Estate, Wilburn has a lot of resources at his fingertips.

In particular, Wilburn and Commonwealth partner David Davis belong to the Society of Office and Industrial Realtors, a national trade association that will enable them to promote River Ridge to counterparts across the United States.

“We are marketing River Ridge, the community of Jeffersonville and the Greater Louisville area,” Wilburn said in an interview.

Contingencies in the proposed contract

If the board approves the purchase agreement with Crossdock, then River Ridge, as the seller, would be responsible for extending the frontage road that runs parallel to Indiana 62.

The authority has federal funding in place to cover that expense, said Marc Elliott, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority. He added that there already are plans to begin that work next summer.

Plus, the authority probably would spend up to an additional $50,000 to complete other property improvements, such as fence removal and demolition of structures.

Crossdock’s part of the pending agreement calls for work to begin within six months of closing on the land acquisition. Then, 500,000 square feet must be constructed within the first two years, and the remaining 1 million square feet must be completed by the end of the four-year period.

If Crossdock is not able to meet that schedule for any reason, then River Ridge has the option of repurchasing the land at cost and reselling the property.

Long-term projections call for 2.25 million square feet

But if anything, Wilburn expects to exceed the development expectations. He hopes to obtain board approval next month, start construction as early as April and have the first 500,000 square feet up by this time next year.

And in the long term, he plans to build more than the agreed-upon 1.5 million square feet, shooting instead for about 2.25 million square feet on the 118-acre parcel.

That amount of space, if fully occupied, could bring 1,500 to 1,800 jobs, Wilburn said. The employment estimate is based on the level of activity he has seen in nearby Bullitt County, where 2.2 million square feet of new space has led to about 1,800 jobs in the past six years.

The development authority, which was formed by the commissioners of Clark County to oversee efforts to convert the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant into an office and industrial park, likes to see those kinds of numbers.

“One of our main objectives is to create more jobs,” Elliott said. |

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