First came the Latin American money. And now comes a big ol’ bank loan that will help a Birmingham, Alabama-based industrial investor buy a lot more warehouses in the Southeast, especially Atlanta.
GCP has just secured a $200M line of credit with Wells Fargo for its industrial buying spree. That comes on the heels of a $100M investment from Blue Ceiba Advisors, a fund that represents foreign investors from Latin America.
“We will continue to be purchasing and buying properties in Atlanta,” GCP President Gardner Lee said.
Since entering the Atlanta industrial market last year, GCP has quickly built up a sizable warehouse portfolio in the metro area, including Air Commerce Business Park in College Park; North Atlanta Distribution Center, a two-building, more than 250K SF park off Buford Highway; the 160K SF 7900 Troon Circle in Austell; and Progress Distribution Center, a two-building, 400K SF property in Lawrenceville.
Unlike other industrial investors, GCP is avoiding those mega, single-tenant industrial blocks that are proliferating across Atlanta’s landscape. Instead, Lee said GCP is eyeing midsize, multi-tenant warehouses along Interstate 20 West and Interstate 85. GCP’s portfolio consists of warehouses that cater to smaller operators, such as a recent renewal and expansion GCP did with Zodiac Aerospace for a total of 140K SF.
Finding product to buy will be the real trick for GCP, given that most warehouses are well-leased in today’s environment.
Atlanta’s industrial fundamentals have been stellar. Users leased more than 6M SF of industrial space during the first quarter of this year, according to a report by Colliers International, the highest quarterly absorption level since the end of 2014, a year when Atlanta led the nation in leasing activity. That has led investors to be eager to buy up Atlanta warehouses, with some $288M in sales during the first quarter, according to Colliers.
“Investment activity for Atlanta industrial product is expected to remain elevated throughout the year,” Colliers officials stated in the report.
There has not been a month this year where some industrial developer has held off breaking ground on new projects. And often those projects are getting built on a speculative basis, meaning the developer has no commitment from a tenant prior to construction. It is a scenario that had the CEO of Prologis, one of the nation’s largest industrial developers, airing concern that the industrial market will outstrip demand in the near future.
In Atlanta, rents haven’t budged so far this year, at $4.15/SF triple-net — meaning tenants agree to pay for their share of maintenance, taxes and building insurance, despite a decline in the vacancy rate below 8%, according to Colliers. That could be a temporary phenomenon, with another 10M SF of deals in the market. That does not faze Lee when it comes to Atlanta.
And it is with midsize, multi-tenant warehouses that Lee said he expects to see long-term rent growth in Atlanta, especially since few developers are adding to the metro stock in that category.
”We don’t compete with the mega-box distributors down in McDonough,” Lee said.