COPPELL, TX-A Wichita, KS redeveloper reportedly has shelled out more than $16 million for the former MJDesigns headquarters and distribution center in Coppell. The two-building, 465,000-sf acquisition marks the return of Ablah Enterprises Inc. as a buyer to the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.

“We think Dallas is one of the best markets in the country,” Frank A. Mills, Ablah executive vice president, tells The redeveloper’s last buy was November 1999.

The MJDesigns complex is being viewed as a long-term holding, unlike others that have been bought, repositioned and put back on the market. Mills says that it’s just the first of a handful of DFW acquisitions that will close within a year in a game plan to beef up the four-state, three million-sf portfolio by another two million sf, all in the DFW metroplex. Ablah is close to inking a contract for a 500,000-sf property, situated northwest of the Dallas CBD. “We’ve had good luck in Dallas in the past,” says Miller, who doesn’t foresee that the current market slump will toss any buying plan into a holding pattern. Another three or four buys could close by year’s end, he says.

Ablah has sold off its previously acquired DFW holdings, but does own property in Waxahachie, south of Ft. Worth. The redeveloper’s existing portfolio, primarily industrial, consists of holdings in its homeport, North Carolina, Memphis and Houston.

Dallas-based Bradford Co. holds the leasing contract for the 410,000-sf, state-of-the-art DFW Distribution Center, situated at 500 Airline Dr., while Stream Realty Partners, also of Dallas, captured the assignment for the office component.

Mills says Ablah prefers to buy empty buildings, a criteria that the MJDesigns complex met after surprising the metroplex with a downsizing and consolidation last year. Merriman Associates of Dallas has been hired as the architect for alterations to the distribution center. The 80,000-sf of office space will be cut back to 8,000 sf to give the structure more of a big box look, says Mills. Exterior and interior paint jobs also are forthcoming. The structure is designed with 46 cross dock-high doors with levelers, four drive-up ramps and 251 trailer parking stalls. The six-year-old office building is a two-story design with high-capacity, fiber optic-type lines running into each room. “If we were going to build a complex, I don’t think we could have built one any better,” Mills says of his new prize.

Mills says Ablah was trying to buy the 32-acre MJDesigns property for the better part of this year. American Airlines eyed the site and then retreated from the deal, opening the door in June to Ablah. TriNet Corporate Partners II LP is the official seller of record.

Mills says talks have begun with several prospective tenants, one of whom is looking at taking over the entire complex. The slow leasing market isn’t being viewed as a problem for the warehouse component. Bradford president Kevin Santalauria tells that “the asset competes very effectively in the current leasing environment due to the fact that the building has all the bells and whistles for today’s industrial user. Because of all the amenities and that it’s priced consistently with other market options, this building will stand head and shoulders above all the alternatives.” The warehouse, built in 1995, carries a per sf rate in the low $3 range.

The holding is located in the Park West Commerce Center, about a quarter mile northeast of the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport. J. Holmes Davis, senior vice president of Philadelphia-based Binswanger/CBB, negotiated the transaction.

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