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DALLAS-Unilever US Inc. is weighing a plan to build 1.7 million sf of distribution space in North Texas and Jacksonville, FL. The winner of the builder’s race is Indianapolis-based Duke Realty Corp.

Sources confirm Duke’s leverage was its strength in both markets. The final cut pitted Duke against Sacramento-based Panattoni Development Co., Denver-based ProLogis and Dallas-based Bandera Ventures Ltd. Unilever and its Cushman & Wakefield Inc. brokerage team declined to comment on the development plan.

Sources also confirmed Duke has struck a deal with the San Diego-based Allen Group to buy a piece of its 6,000-acre stronghold in South Dallas. Word is the Englewood Cliffs, NJ-based Unilever US, led by president of the Americas John Rice, wants to be within striking distance of the Union Pacific Intermodal Yard. Unilever currently leases a 442,000-sf building in Mesquite from ProLogis, which is 15 miles northeast of the UP intermodal.

ProLogis and Duke both have spec projects coming out of the ground near the intermodal, but neither is the mega-size of Unilever’s request for proposals. The RFP sought bids for an 872,000-sf building in Dallas/Fort Worth and 850,000-sf structure in Jacksonville, but the street says the plan could be shifting to an “either/or” scenario. Although the play’s in motion, the game book calls for construction to start in September 2007.

In 2002, the London-based Unilever put a US development pipeline into play to build four distribution centers, each with more than one million sf. According to published accounts, the corporate team’s goal was create a network with a 24-hour in-transit time and shave the order-to-delivery cycle from about one week to 48 hours.

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