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RIVERSIDE, MO-Block & Co. Inc. Realtors, one of Kansas City’s largest developers, has agreed to pay for village-owned land to create a business park with up to eight million sf of industrial. The company, led by Ken Block, plans to buy about 400 acres here and build Horizons Business Park, with a first phase set for more than five million sf and up to $300 million worth of speculative and build-to-suit construction, says a village consultant.

Ned O’Connor, president of Waterford Property Co. LLC, helped the village of 3,000 people set up the land for the park, and then acted as the consultant for the property’s sale. He says the sleepy town never knew what hit them after Argosy Casino decided to locate there, but that the village figured getting land ready for more development was a priority. “They’ve this incredible revenue coming in, and they’re on the river, so they bought 700 acres of vacant ground that used to be a flood plain. Then, they built this $120-million levy around the ground, primarily to protect the city, which did have a flood in 1993. Then, they struggled with what to do with the property.”

He says he joined the project in 2005, and helped get a $40-million interchange on I-635. “That really brought the project to life,” O’Connor tells GlobeSt.com. “They also built almost a highway off the interchange, four lanes wide.”

However, he says the village realized that to have it developed right, a professional company would need to do it. “They took the property to the marketplace to get one private developer,” he says. “They could have broken it into pieces and got more money, but in a single entities’ hands, the quality of the park would be better.” Last spring, the village received 35 proposals from companies from 12 different states, O’Connor says. “A lot of institutions answered, they had the financial wherewithal, but no development experience. A lot of developers didn’t have money. Block had both.”

It took seven months to create a development plan, he says. Block signed the agreement late last month, and plans to close on the property in August. “He should start the speculative construction by the end of this year or first quarter 2009,” O’Connor says. The purchase price has not been disclosed.

The east side of the park will be developed first, he says, about 5.5 million sf, and could include another 250,000 sf of supplemental retail. “At the end of the day, the park could see up to eight million sf of industrial space, all kinds, including flex space to warehouse/distribution. They’ll probably build two-to-three 300,000-sf buildings. You have to have product ready to go these days, people make decisions so quickly about distribution centers.”

Though Kansas City is a second tier industrial market, the area is starting to see more interest from larger users, O’Connor says. “The way goods are now shipped, we’re smack in the middle. Railroads come through here from Texas to Canada, and east-west from Los Angeles. Burlington Northern just bought 2,000 acres to build an intermodal in Kansas City, and there’s another going in at the former Richards-Gebaur Memorial Airport. Our market here used to be 50,000-sf industrial product, now you’re seeing 150,000-sf to 500,000-sf deals,” he says.

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