(To read more on the industrial market, click here.)

BETHLEHEM, PA-Opus East LLC has broken ground for Bethlehem Crossings III, a 224,000-sf spec warehouse/distribution or light manufacturing facility on 17 acres. This joins two other buildings to take Bethlehem Crossings Industrial Park to an aggregate of 459,600 sf.

Craig Guers, senior vice president and general manager of the Plymouth Meeting-based office of the Opus Group, estimates the construction cost for this project at $55 per sf, which would take it to just north of $12.3 million. “That’s a 30% increase in costs over the past 18 months,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “The good news is, costs of drywall, oil-related products and scrap steel are now leveling.”

Bethlehem Crossings III is expected to reach completion in May 2007, and Guers says, “the rent rate will be in the vicinity of $5 per sf, depending on tenant improvements.” The facility will have a 28-foot clear ceiling height, up to 40 truck loading positions, two drive-in bays and build-to-suit office space. “Although we’re building it on spec,” he says, “we have three proposals out to full-building users.”

This is Opus East’s sixth project in the Lehigh Valley over the past five years, and Guers tells GlobeSt.com, “we have six more to go within four years.” The company recently acquired acreage next door for Bethlehem Crossings IV and V, which he says will break ground “once III is 50% leased.”

In addition, this June, it acquired 89 acres in Macungie Township for a three-building, 1.2-million-sf warehouse/distribution complex. Initially dubbed Macungie Crossings, Guers says, “we changed the name to Lehigh Valley Crossings. Final approvals are expected in December, and we plan to break ground for the first building in March.” As GlobeSt.com previously reported, the first building will be about 400,000 sf and also built on spec. “The Lehigh Valley warehouse/distribution market is thriving,” Guers says crediting the area’s work force and cooperative governmental attitude as well as the location.

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