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JOLIET, IL-Ryan Cos. has finished nearly $10 million in work on infrastructure improvements at its 360-acre Laraway Crossing Business Park. About 180 acres of pad-ready sites are now available for build-to-suits following the company’s work completing the extension of Emerald Drive and Cashel Road, site grading on the remaining lots, and the park stormwater pond system and landscaping. The move was made by the company to take advantage of the downtime left in the wake of a market slowdown. Spec construction will halt, according to company officials.

“We were triggered to do a number of improvements, and now I think we’re more prepared than ever for when the market turns around, in having build-to-suit pads ready,” Gunther Lubben, director of development with Ryan, tells GlobeSt.com. “We shaved a lot of time off putting power and gas in the park in the future, and we’re ready to go now.”

Work on the development, at Route 53 and Laraway Road, began in 2000. When completed, the park could offer as much as six million sf, to become one of the largest industrial parks in the Chicago metropolitan area, the company said. The park currently houses two buildings representing a combined 850,000 sf: 401 E. Laraway Road, a 475,104-sf building fully leased by confectionery and beverages company Cadbury plc, and a now-vacant, 374,400-sf facility once leased by third-party logistics firm Arnold Logistics. The vacant building, which was built on spec five years ago, is expandable to 750,000 sf. “Vacancies in the Interstate 80-Joliet corridor are getting up there,” Lubben says. “The submarket has 12 million sf of inventory.”

In August, after nearly a year-and-a-half of work, Ryan Companies closed on a deal with Ikea to purchase 72 acres in the business park. The Swedish retailer will build a 1.3-million-sf Midwest distribution center on the site. The sales price was not disclosed.Lubben says Ryan’s focus at Laraway is on building facilities for one to three tenants, ranging in size from 300,000 to 750,000 sf. “There will be projects with million sf specs, but I think Laraway is better positioned to do the smaller build-to-suits,” Lubben says.

“There is a lot of demand down there for fully-secured facilities of that size.”Lubben says while waiting for build-to-suit arrangements to come in, the company will work on leasing up the 374,400-sf facility before looking to build any more spec buildings. “Our temperament is we’re not going to build spec right now, and we’ll just hold tight,” Lubben says. “I think you’re seeing the downstream effect of a number of buildings that were built, and then we saw a real quick change in the market.”

Lubben says the Interstate 355 extension will make Laraway Crossings even more accessible than it was before. “Available rents in this submarket are competitive, and the access to the interstates and rail system is phenomenal,” Lubben says. “It’s a win-win. Closer to the city, it gets more challenging to find land, but here there’s land available to do buildings.”

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