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Real Estate - Commercial

Two Signed Leases, $120M Investment Announced At ILM Business Park

By Johanna F. Still, posted Nov 4, 2021
Edgewater Ventures’ lead industrial development partner, Chris Norvell, announces the firm’s signed lease at the ILM Business Park at a press conference Thursday morning. (Photo by Johanna F. Still)

Two companies are joining the ILM Business Park, airport officials announced in a press conference Thursday morning. 

Edgewater Ventures and CIL Capital LLC will bring a combined $120 million in investment to the New Hanover County Airport Authority's park through two separate projects. The authority board approved both leases and appointed a new director after a closed session at its meeting Wednesday evening.

Both projects are being planned nearly side by side on undeveloped land fronting Blue Clay Road. 

CIL Capital signed a 30-year lease with 20 one-year extensions for two parcels: one 37-acre property on Blue Clay Road and another 16-acre parcel on the southeastern edge of ILM's property (shown in red on map). The firm intends to construct a 500,000-square-foot storage and distribution facility for the life sciences industry.

"This is a huge opportunity," said Michael Hockett, CEO of CIL Capital. Hockett said the firm hopes to spend more than $100 million on the project. 

He credited the state’s strength in pharmaceutical productions as a factor prompting the Indianapolis-based firm’s interest in expanding the region’s cold storage distribution portfolio. It “just made so much sense,” he said. 

He cited the on-site U.S. Customs and Border Patrol clearance and existing FedEx capabilities as alluring draws to the site. Among 40 or 50 facilities he’s been involved with developing, Hockett said his team has never received a single complaint. “When you build relationships, it puts more pressure on us to make sure you do the right thing. And that's exactly what we're gonna do here,” he said. 

Collaboration among local partners helped seal the already attractive deal, he said. “It's magic.”

Edgewater Ventures plans to construct a class A industrial speculative development consisting of three buildings on a 30-acre property off Blue Clay Road (shown in blue on map above). The firm's lease covers a 20-year term with two 10-year extensions and one nine-year extension, covering a total of 49 years, according to an ILM spokesperson.

One building will be dedicated to a cross-dock facility with dedicated trailer storage, and two buildings will feature rear-loaded facilities able to accommodate multiple tenants.

"If you look at any market around the country, industrial real estate around the airport is always top of market," said Chris Norvell, lead industrial development partner at Edgewater Ventures. "It's a location that is built for success."

Norvell said the due diligence process is underway for planning the airport-adjacent project, with construction ideally beginning within the next six to 12 months. 

The company is in the process of developing a similar industrial speculative project on U.S. 421, Wilmington Trade Center, where construction on the first phase is just two weeks from completion, according to Norvell. 

“The timing could not be better,” said Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development. “As global supply chains adjust to the post-pandemic world, multi-modal transportation assets, sites, near-ports, airports, and interstate highways are in greater demand than ever.” 

Strategically positioned modern industrial sites are considered “trophy properties” coming out of the pandemic, Satterfield said. The investment into the high-paying life sciences sector fits neatly into WBD’s economic vision for the region, he explained. 

The dual announcement is a win for the growing business park, with plenty of open and available space. At 140 acres in total, the business park boasts a prime location near downtown, rail access, a Foreign Trade Zone (where Customs duties and taxes don’t kick in), utilities and competitive leasing rates, according to Airport Authority Chair Donna Girardot. 

“To say I'm excited for the opportunities both these projects present for our region and our airport is an understatement,” said Julia Olson-Boseman, chair of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and an Airport Authority board member. “ I really did not sleep at night. I've been so excited about it.”

Boseman said the combined $120 million investment represents a 30-year commitment on behalf of the parties. “This is not just a one-time influx of cash,” she said. “These are real and lasting investments that will grow our local tax base, increase jobs and enhance economic development opportunities for our region.”

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