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HAZELWOOD, MO-Ford Motor Co. has sold its 155-acre, vacant St. Louis Assembly Plant property, which had been used to produce the Aerostar and the Explorer, to Panattoni Development Co. Inc. for the creation of about 2.6 million sf of warehouse, distribution and light industrial. The North Lindbergh Boulevard site, which still has about three million sf of plant buildings, was reportedly sold for more than $50 million. The new property will be called Aviator Business Park.

The 60-year-old plant had been slated for closure since 2002, but Ford was able to hold onto the site for operations until it finally shut its doors in March 2006. The closure was part of the automaker’s Way Forward plan, which idled and shut plants around the country, and especially in the Midwest, including the company’s Cleveland Casting Plant. “We’re trying to align production capacity with consumer demand,” a spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com. “That has meant we needed to reduce capacity to meet with reduced demand.”

She says the company has been working with the city–including mayor T.R. Carr–since the closure, to bring in a developer for the site. “I expressed my vision to see the building demolished and the area restored, so that it would once again be an employment and business center,” Carr said in a statement. “With the sale, new career opportunities will be made available.”

Panattoni will demolish the current facilities, and construct about 11 buildings on the site. Mark Branstetter with Panattoni tells GlobeSt.com that his company saw the benefit of the location. “It’s an urban infill location, near the airport, and the city is very pro-business,” he says. “It’s a good, stable industrial market. The North County submarket is the largest in the metro area in terms of number of large users.” He says his company has had interest, but is still very much in the planning stages. The demolition will start in a couple weeks, with the buildings down by the end of the year, Branstetter says. First to go up will be an office warehouse building and bulk distribution facility, both spec, he says.

Branstetter says the firm is going to build the properties at the LEED certified level. The developer also is receiving a 100% real property tax abatement for 10 years, and a 50% abatement after that, as well as benefiting from foreign trade status and a brownfield designation.

According to a statement by Clayton Engineering Co. Inc., reconstruction efforts include a design for a modern day business park capable of serving both industrial and commercial users. New roads, utilities and sewers will be installed as part of this work. In addition, a portion of the property is located with a designated 100-year-flood hazard area. The engineering firm’s design work includes preparation of models and accompanying reports to mitigate this area and recover as much of that flood zone as possible for development use. As with all new projects in the St. Louis area, design considerations for special storm water quality control features necessary to meet newly enforced EPA Clean Water Act provisions were required.

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