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JOLIET, IL-California Cartage Co. has signed a three-year lease for 375,000 square feet within the 360-acre Laraway Crossings Business Park. The Long Beach, CA-based transportation and logistics firm will expand into the entire Building One, at 251 Laraway Road, in the park, which is owned by Ryan Companies US Inc. The company will relocate to Laraway from the 214,000-square-foot building it previously occupied in Elwood.

“The lease is written for the entire building, but they originally didn’t need the entire thing so they’re going to phase into the space and their rent phases in,” Tim Hennelly, VP of development with Ryan, tells GlobeSt.com. Hennelly says tenants are drawn to Laraway for its proximity to Interstate 80. Currently is 100% occupied, the park offers the 475,000-square-foot 401 Laraway Road, fully occupied by confectionery and beverages company Cadbury, in addition to California Cartage’s new space.

Built in 2004, the building being leased by California Cartage was the first construction in Laraway and designed to be expandable to 750,000 square feet. It had previously been occupied by third-party logistics firm Arnold Logistics, which at one point handled distribution for Cadbury. The building has been vacant since Arnold moved out last year.

Ryan was represented in the deal by NAI Hiffman’s Steve Connolly and Eric Tresslar, while California Cartage was represented by Mike Brown of e-realty. The property offers 30-foot clear ceilings, 40 exterior truck docks, ESFR sprinkler systems, T5 lighting, and parking for 155 cars and 81 trailers.

Last fall, Ryan Companies completed nearly $10 million in work on infrastructure improvements at Laraway. Nearly 180 acres of pad-ready sites remain available for build-to-suits or future speculative buildings by Ryan 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 slow-down caused by the economy.

“We don’t have any plans now for spec development in the Interstate 80 corridor, but we’re getting a lot of inquiries for build to suits,” Hennelly says. “It’s because people want to own, and there isn’t a lot of product in the 80 corridor that someone can own that’s under 800,000 square feet. We’re flexible – we would sell the land to a user, build a building for them to own or lease it to them – but the more entrepreneurial companies are the ones looking at our sites to own.”

Last summer, Ryan Companies closed on a deal with Ikea to purchase 72 acres in the business park for an undisclosed price. In 2001, the Swedish retailer will build a 1.4-million-sf Midwest distribution center on the site. The park, at Route 53 and Laraway Road, could offer as much as six million square feet when completed, to become one of the largest industrial parks in the Chicago metropolitan area, the company has said.

The property is located in the Interstate 80 corridor. “It’s been hit pretty hard because of the sizes of the buildings that are up, since a lot of other developers put spec buildings in the million square foot range,” Hennelly says. “The vacancy in the 80 corridor is more than 20% so it’s tough and that obviously is driving rents down because there’s a lot of supply. Demand has kind of dried up, but I’m happy where we’re at in Laraway, with our buildings full and looking at build-to-suits, not spec.

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