WINSTON-SALEM, NC -Eager to cash in on a perceived demand for new distribution/warehouse space, local developers Garry Merritt and Chris Chapman have formed Big Hat Co. and plan to erect a two-building, 700,000-sf center next spring on 62 acres in Northbridge Business Park, 60 miles north of Downtown Charlotte. The estimated hard construction cost of the project is $42 million.

A second independently-developed project by Andy and Bruce Brown is going up on Old Lexington Road. The developers’ decisions to build were triggered by FedEx plans to erect a mega distribution complex at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Big Hat plans a 500,000-sf structure with an estimated construction cost of $30 million and a 200,000-sf building expected to cost $12 million. The buildings will offer 33-foot ceilings to handle vertical cargo stacking. The project will take three years to complete. Merritt and Chapman bought the 62 acres two years ago from Sara Lee Corp. at the bargain price of $482,500, or $7,782 per acre (18 cents per sf).

Triad Commercial Properties will lease Big Hat’s park for at least $3 per sf, or about $1 less than distribution space around Piedmont Triad International Airport. Local brokers say there is high demand in the Triad for distribution and warehouse space larger than 150,000 sf.

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