CHICAGO—The Chicago area industrial market has recentlyexperienced a noticeable bump in activity, including a boost ininvestment and a decline in the vacancy rates of many submarkets.And the better economic conditions may have had an even biggerimpact on certain sectors, such as food production or packaging,that typically have to expand in good times and bad, due to thegrowing population.

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“We're seeing many more food-related users,” BarryMissner, the president of the MissnerGroup, tells GlobeSt.com. As reported yesterday in GlobeSt.com, the Skokie,IL-based real estate developer, is putting the finishing touches onthe $35 million repurposing of a 532,560-square-foot industrialbuilding at 1001 W. Crossroads Parkway in suburban Romeoville forPeacock Engineering Co., a specialist in foodpackaging. Located in Prologis Park 55, it was thesecond largest industrial lease in the I-55 corridor during2013.

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“It's an always-growing industry,” Missner adds, but theeconomic crisis derailed a lot of plans, and “maybe, there is now alot of pent-up demand for capital expenditures.”

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“There's certainly a lot more activity than we've seen in pastyears,” says Drue Stoehr, project manager of thePeacock repurpose. “This sector is seeing well above-averageactivity, of that I'm certain.”

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Missner's task with the Peacock project was to quickly get thespace operational. “We worked up to three shifts a day andbasically every weekend,” Stoehr says, at least from May toOctober, when roughly 75% of the necessary work got done, a phasethat normally would have taken a year.

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The building, originally built in 1999, had been occupied byGillette, which used it as a dry-storagewarehouse, which in turn meant Missner had a lot of work to do. “Iwouldn't say this type of project is unique, but the size and scopeof it are unique,” says Missner. The company had to place about 60refrigeration units on the roof, for example, and “these warehousesare not typically designed for those loads.” Therefore, in additionto placing the units, the company had to strengthen the building'ssupports.

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“We also had to tear up a substantial amount of flooring, about120,000-square-feet, put in a great deal of new piping, a newfreezer floor, and then do a full pour back,” says Stoehr. InOctober, the company downshifted to a normal pace. It is puttingthe finishing touches on the building's production rooms and shouldcomplete the project this June.

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The frenetic pace of those early months would have beenimpossible without help from municipal officials, Missner adds.They worked with the company to ensure that the needed permits weresubmitted and approved without impeding the work. “That's somethingthat can hold a project back. But Romeoville's cooperation wascritical.”

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.