As Port of Virginia expands, so do land plans

Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Join the fray. The more, the merrier.

That’s the message to the Suffolk regarding the proposed CenterPoint industrial development from the city’s neighbors to the west.

Economic development officials representing the City of Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties said Monday that the growing Port of Virginia will create enough business in the distribution and warehousing sectors to accommodate everyone.

On Wednesday, the Chicago-based development company pitched a proposal to the Suffolk City Council to build a $325 million warehousing and distribution facility on 900 acres along the Holland Road corridor.

“It’s a huge pie,” said Lisa Perry, director of economic development for Isle of Wight County. “The whole East Coast is gearing up for the development that’s coming to the ports.”

Perry and other development officials pointed to a 2006 report presented by the firm Moffit and Nichols that predicts a need for an additional 20 million to 60 million square feet of distribution space by the year 2030 to support the growing Virginia port system.

“We don’t have 22 million square feet under roof, and Suffolk doesn’t have it alone,” she said. “It will take every single community along (Route) 460, and then some.”

Isle of Wight took a big step into the business with its 350-acre Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park and has plans in the works for other, even larger projects—including a 600-acre property it recently acquired from International Paper.

Franklin and Southampton hope to leverage the expected ports growth with two industrial parks now in development, the Turner Tract and the Cypress Cove Industrial Park, according to John Smolak, director of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc.

“All these different developments are in different stages,” Smolak said following a Southampton Board of Supervisors meeting Monday in which members heard a presentation on plans for the new Turner property.

“Suffolk has a lot of things to put in place first,” he said, noting that development of Southampton’s 474-acre industrial park off of Route 671 could move quickly, as utilities and infrastructure in the area are upgraded.

In fact, the board learned that the development authority could be ready for tenants to build as early as 2010, if plans for water and sewer and site development remain on schedule.

“In any event, we’re going to be ready,” Smolak said. “If you’re not ready, you’re not in the ball game.”

Isle of Wight considers itself in an even better position, according to Perry.

“We’re already courting clientele directly,” she said, adding that the Suffolk announcement is “just helping to enhance the corridor.”