by Dan Rafter
A former Chrysler plant in Fenton, Mo., will soon boast new warehouses, offices and distribution centers, thanks to the efforts of KP Development and NAI DESCO.
KP Development, a St. Louis-based build-to-suit developer, has closed on the purchase of the former 294-acre Chrysler assembly plant site in Fenton. The developer is now ready to move forward on the proposed Fenton Logistics Park.
The project will include the development of 2.5 million square feet of space for companies and end users during the next five years, representing an investment that will likely top $500 million in all and bring thousands of new jobs to the region.
Scott Haley, vice president at KP Development, told Midwest Real Estate News, that the blank slate that is now the site gives his company the opportunity to make a positive impact on the St. Louis industrial market.
“This represents a tremendous opportunity for an under-served area,” Haley said. “The southern portion of the St. Louis metro area is lacking in industrial and office opportunities. This gives us a chance to change that. We can serve a plethora of companies that want to be in St. Louis but before this haven’t had the opportunity.”
A new history
The site at 1050 Dodge Drive in the St. Louis suburb of Fenton was once home to a pair of Chrysler production plants that totaled more than 5 million square feet. The plants, which were built in 1959 and 1965, formerly manufactured Dodge Chargers and Plymouth Barracudas. Before the plants closed, workers here manufactured minivans and pickup trucks. In its busiest days, the plants employed as many as 6,000 workers.
Both plants have since been demolished, which is where KP Development comes in.
Daniel Hayes, principal with NAI DESCO, and Floyd Sweeney, vice president with the company, co-brokered the sale of the former plants.
“The Chrysler plants were significant in so many people’s lives for so many years,” said Hayes. “That is why we are pleased to have found a buyer who understands the importance of this property and plans to bring new companies and jobs back to this prominent site.”
Terry Barnes, president of KP Development, said that the site can once again be a key economic driver for the region.
“The local market and region is short in industrial, light manufacturing, distribution and office product, and that deficiency is even more pronounced in the southern portion of the metropolitan area, where the development of the Fenton Logistics Park will really fill a void,” Barnes said.
Barnes said that KP Development has secured interest from regional and national players, and that the company is working on finalizing five company-driven projects, with two of those on target to close within the next 60 to 90 days, paving the way for 300 jobs soon and up to 1,500 potential jobs within 24 months.
Logistically, these initial projects could be built simultaneously with the first phase of the Fenton Logistics Park infrastructure. Preliminary site work could get underway before the end of the year, with an official ground-breaking that could take place in early 2015. The initial end users are anticipated to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2015.
The right time
What made this the right time for such a big purchase? Haley said that it all hinges on the state of the national economy.
“There is evidence throughout the country that are trillions of dollars being invested by Fortune 500 companies and global and regional companies,” Haley said. “That has definitely been witnessed here in the Midwest. St. Louis is going to continue to see more investment, especially with the boost in the economy that we are seeing.”
Transforming the site into a logistics park will bring challenges. But Haley said that KP Development is ready for them.
“This is not a cornfield that we are transforming,” Haley said. “We are taking a site with 60 years of industrial history, a site with a lot of abandoned infrastructure or obsolete infrastructure on it, and trying to bring it to 21st Century standards. That is our key challenge.”