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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

POLK CITY, FL- Indianapolis, IN-based Browning Investments Inc. has plans to build a warehouse and distribution park totaling 1.3 million sf west of the intersection of State Road 33 and Mount Olive Road, three miles north of Interstate 4. Construction is expected to begin on a speculative 554,000-sf building in February, with completion scheduled for the third quarter of 2009.

The value of the project, named Axcess 4 Logistics Center, is about $75 million at buildout, Dale Pfeifer, director of real estate development for Browning Investments, tells GlobeSt.com. According to Browning, Polk City has waived all impact fees in support of the project, which should accelerate permitting and development for interested tenants.

“We’ve got a land site where we’re going to promote flexibility,” says Pfeifer. “We’re able to expand the first building to over 1 million sf in size.” A subsequent two or three more structures will be built based on leasing activity, he adds.

Brokerage partner Colliers Arnold will target large bulk users for the project, says Orlando managing director and principal Matt Sullivan. “Florida now has a critical mass in terms of population and that larger users are coming [here],” he says. “This particular location in the heart of the state gives them access to a population of almost 16 million people within a four-hour ride.”

Access to interstates, the economics of lower land prices and quality of labor within the Polk County marketplace brought Browning and Colliers Arnold to the site, both parties say. The location in the growing Lakeland distribution market is within 45 miles of Orlando and Tampa, and will have access to the new CSX intermodal facility in Winter Haven.

Rents at the state-of-the-art, cross-docked bulk distribution warehouse will be at market price, says Pfeifer. Features include T5 fluorescent warehouse lighting and an ESFR sprinkler system. According to Sullivan, leasing space on the 104-acre site is available from 150,000 sf to 1.3 million sf. Edwards Construction will build the warehouse and distribution buildings.

Polk County’s industrial vacancy rate stands at 9.6% through the third quarter, down nearly two percentage points from the same period in 2007, according to CB Richard Ellis research. The average rental rate there is $5.51 per sf, up 3.5% from the second quarter and at least 10% from a year ago.

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