The industrial real estate sector has been plagued by a shortage of new inventory thanks to a confluence of events that includes the COVID-19 pandemic, building material supply disruptions, labor shortages, a continuing run on e-commerce fulfillment centers, and much more. As a result, industrial stakeholders have gotten creative in the face of adversity by converting commercial properties, building vertical warehouses, and spreading inventory across numerous micro-fulfillment centers.
Despite the innovation happening over the past two years, many industry stakeholders have overlooked blighted industrial properties as a viable pipeline for new industrial inventory. For those who may be unfamiliar, a property becomes blighted after having fallen into disuse and disrepair. These buildings often become home to pests, pollution, and crime, which brings down property values in surrounding neighborhoods. In the industrial world, blighted facilities spring up when companies go out of business and leave their factories and warehouses unattended and unsold.
Do Blighted Industrial Properties Have Any Value?
From empty lots to crumbling former factories, many major U.S. cities have no shortage of blighted industrial properties that require attention. However, Phoenix Investors has had significant success remediating blighted properties, with examples including:
- Phoenix Investors worked with the City of Milwaukee in Wisconsin to demolish the abandoned Interstate Forging Industries facility, which had become a haven for criminal activities. Analysis of four years’ worth of data about the site identified a 32% reduction in serious crimes in the surrounding area.
- In Flint, Michigan, Phoenix Investors renovated the closed Delphi GM Plant, which had been shuttered and partially demolished years before. We also donated $50,000 to the Genesee County Land Bank Authority, enabling them to secure an additional $500,000 from the state’s Housing Development Authority to demolish blighted buildings in the surrounding region, resulting in improved economic activity and crime reduction in the area.
At Phoenix Investors, remediating blighted properties is one of our core methods for developing new inventory and helping communities.
Why Blighted Properties?
Blighted properties present numerous challenges for developers. Builders must address pest problems, soil and water pollution, criminal activity, and more. In addition, the buildings themselves are often completely unusable, and the blighted facility must get demolished so the developer can rebuild from scratch.
Five years ago, all that effort probably wouldn’t seem worth it. But when facing overwhelming industrial demand and a shortage of viable industrial land, these decaying facilities present an opportunity to create new industrial inventory while giving back to communities and revitalizing neighborhoods.
Some of the advantages of remediating blighted industrial properties include:
- Less competition. Most urban industrial space goes to the highest bidder. But given the high investment and level of commitment involved in blight remediation projects, most blighted properties will have little or no interest from other developers.
- Public-private partnerships. Most cities with abundant blighted properties will gladly partner with private parties to renovate abandoned facilities. Often, blighted industrial buildings get seized by the city via eminent domain and sold cheaply to developers just so something gets done.
- Good locations. Blighted properties are often remnants of another age, wherein cities sprung up around factories as people sought good jobs. Now, those same sites are conveniently located near or within major consumer markets, making them ideal for use as e-commerce fulfillment centers.
- Labor. Revitalizing decaying properties impacts the economy and living conditions positively in surrounding neighborhoods. As those neighborhoods bounce back, residents may express interest in working at the new facility in their proverbial backyard.
Though redeveloping blighted facilities is certainly not without its challenges, some would say the same of repurposing old shopping malls or office buildings for industrial use. In addition, blighted industrial real estate presents a significant opportunity in urban markets where industrial space has become near-impossible to find.
About Phoenix Investors
Founded by Frank P. Crivello in 1994, Phoenix Investors and its affiliates (collectively “Phoenix”) are a leader in the acquisition, development, renovation, and repositioning of industrial facilities throughout the United States. Utilizing a disciplined investment approach and successful partnerships with institutional capital sources, corporations and public stakeholders, Phoenix has developed a proven track record of generating superior risk adjusted returns, while providing cost-efficient lease rates for its growing portfolio of national tenants. Its efforts inspire and drive the transformation and reinvigoration of the economic engines in the communities it serves. Phoenix continues to be defined by thoughtful relationships, sophisticated investment tools, cost efficient solutions, and a reputation for success.