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AURORA, IL-Chicago-area commercial real estate development, particularly office properties, mirrors the slowdown in the greater US economy, but if recent ground-breakings are any indication, there’s still an interest in getting spec industrial properties out of the ground and onto the market–and the financing to do so.

Within the space of a few weeks this summer, three large industrial projects in Chicago’s far western suburb of Aurora have gotten under way. Aurora, a town of about 100,000 straddling the Fox River, is connected to Chicago and the Interstate system by I-88, locally known as the East-West Corridor. The western reaches of Aurora, in particular, have been of interest to spec developers in search of relatively inexpensive land.

HSA Commercial Development has started work on the 382,400-sf Aurora Distribution Center, a single-story facility. In Ridge Realty Group’s West Ridge Corporate Center, also in Aurora, a 325,400-sf distribution facility is now under construction, the first building in that business park. And Opus North Corp. recently began Butterfield V, a 219,900-sf structure in the Butterfield Center for Business & Industry, a 900-acre multi-use park in Aurora.

Apparently, deals of this size still interest developers and lenders, though it would seem to be against the grain of the current slowdown. “The consumer sector is still relatively strong, and so inventories are still flowing through, maintaining a demand for warehouse and distribution space,” notes David Downey, managing director with Transwestern Commercial Service’s investment services group in Chicago. “Besides, Chicago is still the distribution hub of the nation, and a small downturn isn’t going to change that.”

There are a number of notable similarities between the properties recently underway, beyond their location. All of them feature 30-foot clear ceilings–practically an industry standard now, but about as high as industrial space is likely to go–a good number of exterior docks and drive-in doors and ESFR sprinklers.

HSA is marketing the Aurora Distribution Center itself, which is being built by Kiferbaum Construction and was designed by Dobrin & Associates. Colliers, Bennett & Kahnweiler is the leasing agent for the new West Ridge Corporate Center facility, which is being built by FCL Builders and was designed by Kwasek Architects. Butterfield V is also being taken to market by CBK. Opus Architects & Engineers designed the project.

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