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September 18, 2023 Deal Watch

Diverse mix of small business owners partner to build industrial rental properties north of Hartford

HBJ PHOTO | MICHAEL PUFFER (From left) N. Andrew Robb, Marc Murphy, Chris Skinner, Everett Skinner and Adam Oliveri are partners in two rental industrial property developments that will cater to small business users.

Three businessmen from Massachusetts with longstanding ties have joined with a pair of Connecticut builders for an ambitious push to develop small industrial rental properties north of Hartford.

The partners broke ground this year on a 19,800-square-foot industrial building on nearly 4.5 acres at 29 Moody Road, in Enfield. The $2.8 million project will offer 11, 1,800-square-foot bays that can be leased individually or combined.

As construction in Enfield wraps up later this year, the group plans to begin work on 100,000 square feet of industrial space — to be divided into relatively small rental bays — in four buildings on a 26-acre site along Route 83 in Ellington. The partners recently paid $1.1 million for the vacant land on West Road.

Partner Adam Oliveri said the plan is to hunt for additional development sites that can be transformed into rental spaces for small, trades-focused businesses.

“So, the goal is to keep doing one (project) as soon as the other one wraps up,” Oliveri said. “Our dream is to have these two go really well — we know they will — and then have three, four, five, ten after that.”

At the Enfield site, each bay will have a separate entrance with a 14-foot-tall garage door, along with bright white interiors and 18-foot-tall ceiling heights. The partners imagine the units will attract a wide array of tenants, including plumbers, HVAC professionals and other tradespeople who own small businesses.

“You might have a contractor with four or five employees,” said Chris Skinner, a partner in the venture. “Maybe he doesn’t want to take out a $1 million mortgage and build his own office.”

Skinner and his brother, Everett Skinner, own Ellington-based The Barn Yard, a builder of timber-frame structures ranging from 100-square-foot sheds to rustic 10,000-square-foot events center barns. The Barn Yard has produced custom commercial and industrial buildings. It manufactures components using CNC machines, and ships worldwide.

The Barn Yard offers full assembly in New England. In the rest of the continental U.S., it will erect the timber frame and leave finished carpentry for the new owners to arrange. Their building components have shipped as far as Belgium.

Chris Skinner said the partners aim to fill a void in quality small industrial rental spaces, with high-end finishes that offer small businesses a proud home.

Diverse backgrounds

Based in West Springfield, Oliveri has interests in a commercial bakery, small pharmacy chain that supplies rare-ailment drugs, bowling alley, commercial real estate and horse stables.

About nine years ago, Oliveri hired The Barn Yard to build an eight-stall, 2,500-square-foot barn at his West Springfield boarding stable. He liked the work so much, he asked Chris and Everett Skinner to handle construction of his Enfield industrial property.

Oliveri started the Enfield project as a solo venture, but soon found it difficult to juggle his everyday business demands with permitting and other development tasks. So, he recruited two friends, N. Andrew Robb, a partner in East Longmeadow-based accounting firm Burgess, Robb & Grassetti P.C., and Marc Murphy, co-founder of West Springfield-based brokerage Lock and Key Realty.

The trio jointly owns a 4,570-square-foot office building at 31 Moody Road in Enfield, and carved off 4.5 acres nearby, at 29 Moody Road, for their first industrial project.

Next, they recruited the Skinners as full partners, drawn by the brothers’ familiarity with permitting and land-use boards.

“The second they got onboard, the project just kind of took off,” Oliveri said. “It’s the best decision we’ve ever made.”

The partners expect to finish the Enfield building in January, and begin leasing in the first quarter of 2024.

Groundwork at the 26-acre Ellington site will begin about the same time. That project will be done in phases, starting with 100,000 square feet of industrial space on 19.61 acres.

At the same time, the partners will begin marketing the remaining 6 acres for commercial tenants, with plans to seek permitting for buildings tailored to user needs. A conceptual plan shows four potential commercial buildings on-site.

The partners said they plan to stick together, looking for additional building sites for similar concepts in northern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

“All of us have really successful other businesses, but we all feel like we bring something really unique to the table,” Oliveri said. “So, with Marc’s real estate and brokerage experience, and with Andy being a CPA, and my business background, combined with the Skinners’ work in construction and building, we just think that’s the perfect team.”

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