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February 27 , 2004

Granite eyes Denton for biz park

February 27th, 2004 - Developer puts 100 acres under contract for multiphased industrial project Daniel C. Bartel Senior Writer Dallas-based Granite Properties is proposing to build a new $60 million industrial park in south Denton -- the first one ever for the North Texas city. Development officials plan to put up anywhere from six to eight warehouses -- approximately 1 million square feet of space total -- over the course of five to six years, said Greg Fuller, managing director at Granite Properties. The buildings would house multiple tenants and service light industrial, assembly manufacturing as well as office space needs, he said. Officials with the firm are still doing due diligence work on 100 acres under contract off Airport Road at the southwest edge of the city. There's a lot of "homework" to be done, including environmental studies and market consideration at the site before the property closes, Fuller said. Granite is working with Denton city officials to negotiate city and county tax abatements for the project. However, the type of abatements or how much savings they will bring won't be known until after the due diligence work is finished sometime in spring 2005, Fuller said. If all goes well, Granite expects to break ground soon after. "We're still at the early infancy period of this project -- anything could happen," Fuller said. Fuller said he is "confident" that the due diligence work will go through and create a "viable project." Phased project A phase-in building process would ensure that supply keeps up with demand, avoiding a glut of available warehouse space on the Denton office market, which could harm existing lease rates. "Five to six years is just our best guess for what the market will absorb over time," he said. "If someone wants to buy 1 million square feet tomorrow, then sure, we can build it all at once. Otherwise, this is a speculative project and will take time." Granite officials expect the park will be a mixture of both build-to-suit and spec buildings. The park would be located along Airport Road at the southwestern edge of the city where Interstate 35E and I-35W wishbone out. The area is home to other distribution plants: Victor Equipment Co., which distributes welding torches and supplies; and Anderson Merchandisers L.P., distributor of music CDs and DVDs for big box retailers such as Wal-Mart. The area also is home to Peterbilt Motor Co., maker of heavy duty trucks and Mayday Manufacturing, which makes components for the aerospace industry. While neighbors, the companies don't share a common park area such as the one Granite is proposing. For now, Denton's only semblance of an industrial park is a few office buildings on Denton's east side near Sally Beauty International, the world's largest distributor of haircare products for salons. Considerable work has been done to attract developers to build an industrial park, said Melissa Glasgow, economic development director with the Denton Chamber of Commerce. Plans to build the park come at a good time for Denton, which is practically depleted of available large-scale warehouse space, city officials said. Due to the shortage, at least one distribution company has had to locate a portion of its operations to other cities with available space. Anderson Merchandisers, for example, recently leased 51,000 square feet of warehouse space in Lewisville because of Denton's lack of available space. Denton's location geographically at the far northern corner of Dallas-Fort Worth has worked to discourage developers from even considering the area for business, said Linda Ratliff, director of economic development for the city of Denton. Lifting barriers "(Lake Lewisville) has acted as a barrier for us," she said. "But we're getting more interest now that people are starting to recognize our growth." More available space in Denton would help to attract new companies to the area, she said. Despite the distance from Dallas-Fort Worth, Fuller said Granite developers were attracted to Denton because of its need for warehouse space as well as the city's emerging reputation as a high growth area. Denton caught Granite's attention two years ago when the firm began investigating the viability of different submarkets in the Metroplex. Granite officials selected the southwest Denton site and put it under contract a few months ago, Fuller said. The city has a number of different projects ongoing to improve its traffic infrastructure, including projects to widen I-35E, U.S. Highway 380 and several city streets along Loop 288. The bulk of these projects began in 2002, based on population projections from Census 2000 figures, officials said. In 2003, the North Central Texas Council of Governments estimated 93,450 residents lived in Denton, an increase of about 16,000 residents from 2000, Ratliff said. With a high volume of commuters -- many of them students at the University of North Texas and Texas Women's University -- the city population increases well beyond 100,000 in the daytime, she said.
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