NEW YORK CITY-An industrial build-to-suit property takes planning and planning takes time, which is why many small and midsize firms tend to shy away from taking the reins when it comes to developing new facilities.

Anthony Rimikis, senior vice president of development & construction at Newtown Square, PA-based REIT Brandywine Realty Trust says large companies tend to be more attractive to developers when it comes to build-to-suit industrial deals because they know what they’re doing and have cash in their pockets. “The credit issue is always premier for developers. A credit-worthy tenant makes it so much easier. A Dow or an Exxon is certainly preferable to a small company with no track record. We did a build-to-suit for International Paper where the tenant committed to half of a 100,000-sf building. That lease gave that tenant a whole other look than if we were thinking about putting up a 100,000-sf building on spec.”

Still, Rimikis doesn’t see build-to-suit as the coming wave for the industrial market. “It’s no different from office. You can have a sign on a piece of ground forever and no broker or tenant shows up. The minute the walls start going up, the people appear. All of a sudden people realize it’s a new project and they want to talk to you.”

“The biggest problem is that nobody plans ahead of time. If a client is looking for a warehouse and they can find a building that’s going up, they’ll grab it, because they’re usually behind the curve,” says Jonathan Schultz, president of Woodbridge, NJ-based real estate firm the Schultz Organization. “You need to start planning two years out. You have to find the property, go through the approvals and then build. Larger companies tend to do more planning, just more corporate forecasting than smaller companies.”

Nevertheless, Schultz recommends the build-to-suit approach for industrial clients whose needs require a high degree of specificity. “Build-to-suits are very good for companies that have grown, that need to take on more space. The client can have a much more functional facility. They design the infrastructure, design the envelope, they’re able to lay it out and be part of the process. When you find a company that will do that, they’re going to get exactly what they want.”

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