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September 12, 2022

INDUS Realty Trust diversifies into new markets as sprawling New England Tradeport development fills

HBJ PHOTO | STEVE LASCHEVER Tim Lescalleet, executive vice president of INDUS Realty Trust, at a portion of the New England Tradeport off Tradeport Drive.

In 1978, cigar company Culbro Corp. completed a roughly 40,000-square-foot warehouse on a former tobacco field in East Granby, its first foray into industrial development.

Culbro – which today is known as INDUS Realty Trust – developed a 600-acre industrial park around that first building, spanning parts of East Granby and Windsor. Forty-four years later, INDUS has nearly filled the park.

INDUS recently received land-use approvals for a 248,000-square-foot distribution center on 59.6 acres at 105 International Drive. It was the last piece of industrially-zoned land available in the development zone.

The park still holds about 34 acres of residentially-zoned land, which INDUS hopes to eventually develop into an industrial use. 

The Tradeport may be nearly built out, but INDUS Executive Vice President Tim Lescalleet said the company has enough vacant land in Connecticut to keep it occupied while it focuses on diversifying its portfolio in markets to the south. As of March 31, the company’s stated goal was to nearly double its 5.4-million-square-foot portfolio in the coming two to three years.

INDUS still holds more than 450 acres in zoned for industrial development in Bloomfield, Simsbury and Windsor, as well as in Massachusetts. Much of this might be better suited for commercial or mixed use, Lescalleet said. 

Indus Realty recently received land-use approvals for a 248,000-square-foot distribution center on 59.6 acres at 105 International Drive within the New England Tradeport.

INDUS owns 16 of 19 buildings in the Tradeport, representing about 32% of its current leasable buildings nationally. That doesn’t include the recently-approved project at 105 International Drive, or a 150,000-square-foot expansion of 100 International Drive. Nor does it include two additional sites in Windsor where the company has building approvals for about 500,000 square feet.

"We’re thrilled with our success at New England Tradeport, and we look forward to continuing to build-out and lease what we have and selectively expand upon that up here,” Lescalleet said in a recent interview. “Most of our new development activities have been concentrated in expanding our portfolio outside of Connecticut. For the past 10 years we have been doing that, first starting in Pennsylvania, then moving to Charlotte, now South Carolina, Florida and soon-to-be Tennessee.”

INDUS, a publicly-traded company, is focused on growing its holdings into additional high-growth industrial markets with access to strong and/or rapidly growing populations and economies.

"We look for many of the characteristics we love about the Hartford market: strong rents and tenant demand, high barriers-to-entry for new product and access to large population centers,” Lescalleet said. “So where are we focusing our incremental growth today? It’s Lehigh Valley, it’s Charlotte, it’s Charleston, Greenville-Spartanburg, Orlando, Tampa, Nashville.”

'Gold standard'

The Tradeport remains a solid draw for industrial users. It went through development fits and spurts, dictated by economic trends and conditions, Lescalleet said.

A program of speculative development began in the late 1990s. At some point the Tradeport reached a “critical mass” in which demand was driven partly by growth of existing tenants, Lescalleet said. The park’s expansion was helped by state and local investment in roads and other infrastructure.

“It’s a destination of its own for industrial users looking for space that can serve all of New England and New York,” Lescalleet said.

Located just outside Bradley International Airport, the Tradeport has access to nearby highways that put it within one day’s truck drive of New England states, western New York up to Montreal and Toronto, according to Lescalleet.

“Logistics patterns change constantly, but there is still a need, in my view, to have something east of the Hudson River to serve the market,” Lescalleet said.

Windsor Economic Development Director Patrick McMahon praised INDUS— and its immediate past incarnation as Griffin Land — for growing jobs and tax revenue in the area. The company has worked with the town to minimize impacts while drawing “prestigious” companies including FedEx, Pepsi, UPS and others, he noted.

McMahon said he admired the company’s delivery of flexible buildings that can suit manufacturing as well as logistics.

“It’s quite the legacy,” McMahon said of the Tradeport. “Griffin Land and INDUS Realty Trust have really been a great partner with the town getting the New England Tradeport off the ground and filled up over these decades.”

Art Ross, senior managing director with commercial brokerage Newmark, said INDUS has built up a reputation for being the “gold standard” of industrial development in the area long before national developers took notice.

“These guys are solid citizens,” Ross said. “They’ve been here for decades. They have a very good reputation. They’re all about high levels of service to their tenants.”

Ross said he believes those qualities will help INDUS as it expands holdings outside of Connecticut. Ross said one of his clients in an INDUS property in Connecticut is contemplating expansion into an INDUS property elsewhere.

“I’m guessing more of that is going to happen, where they are able to potentially connect tenants in one market who might be expanding in another market, given their relationships and their level of service and so forth,” Ross said. “That could be very beneficial to them.”

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