KANSAS CITY, MO-The recent selection of locally based Block & Co. to develop the 450-acre first phase of an industrial park in Riverside, MO brings to four the number of major industrial projects being launched in the Kansas City market. The combined project total of more than 20 million sf will boost existing inventory by about 10%.

Though the Block project, the $300 million Horizons Business Park, will be a conventional rail-served warehouse and distribution center with about 3.5 million sf of space, the other three are intermodal centers tied to the city’s efforts to transform itself into a top-tier distribution hub.

“In the ’90s we were competing, pretty poorly, against markets like Indianapolis, Memphis and Columbus,” David Hinchman, first vice president of the Kansas City office of CB Richard Ellis, tells GlobeSt.com. “As recently as five years ago, we were in many people’s minds a third-tier market. Since then we’ve moved up to become second tier, and the aim is to rival markets like Atlanta and Dallas.”

What’s driving the change, says Hinchman, is the city’s central location relative to the rest of the US combined with exceptional rail and highway connections. “Kansas City is number two rail center in the country, second only to Chicago, and the number three trucking center. It’s become a logical stopping point for goods from all points,” he observes. With Chicago’s increasing rail and highway congestion and rising costs, he adds, companies have been looking to his market as a cheaper and more convenient alternative.

Hinchman leads a team of brokers marketing the KCI Intermodal BusinessCentre, an 800-acre multi-use development on Kansas City International Airport land being developed by Houston’s Trammell Crow Co. under a ground lease with the Kansas City Aviation Department. Phase I, set to begin this fall, will entail 2.7 million sf of distribution and light manufacturing buildings on 300 acres south of the American Airlines overhaul base. Phase II will add another 400 acres targeted for air cargo facilities, air freight logistics, light manufacturing and commercial distribution uses.

“The airport is blessed with 11,000 acres of excess land,” notes Hinchman. “Airport authorities decided, let’s be an economic engine for the city. The centrality of Kansas City combined with the benefits of cheaper costs that come from ground-leasing will make this attractive for the kind of high-dollar volume, time-sensitive and temperature sensitive shipping that depends on air freight.”

The other two intermodal centers are rail-driven, though one will also have a strong air component. BNSF Railway Co. and the San Diego-based Allen Group will open the first buildings next year at Logistics Park-Kansas City, a 997-acre project with 418-acre BNSF intermodal facility in the suburb of Gardner, KS. Meanwhile, Kansas City Southern Railway Co. and CenterPoint Properties of Oakbrook, IL are building the 970-acre CenterPoint-KCS Intermodal Center at the former Richards-Gebaur Memorial Airport in Belton, MO. The $200 million project will have about five million sf of warehouse and industrial facilities. BNSF provides extensive rail links to both coasts, while Kansas City Southern serves the Gulf of Mexico and Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico’s largest container port.

Lou Serrone, director of development for the Horizons project, reports the Block development is intended to serve local rather than national and regional distribution needs. Where the intermodal facilities are located 25 miles or more to the north (KCI), south (KCS) and west (BNSF) of the city center, Horizons is 10 minutes from downtown on a flood plain reclaimed by completion of a new levee on the Kansas River.

“Kansas City has always been a good industrial city,” says Serrone. “But because of the railheads here, I think you’re going to see a tremendous boom. I think the momentum that’s being created by what’s going on globally is going to create the demand. The dynamics of the central location and access to the rail and highway network makes us ideally suited to serve growing global trade.”

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