The Pretlow tract

Published 11:10 am Friday, January 31, 2014

by Amanda Jarratt

While very obvious, the Pretlow tract has been semi-idle since the City purchased it from the Pretlow family in the 1980’s. Seemingly ideally located south of and close to the City along four-lane Route 58, the tract has drawn no takers except two tenants in the speculative building constructed in 1998, Crestel and most recently Money Mailer.

Why? There are several reasons.

The 163-acre tract is mostly zoned for heavy industry, but lacks two key components that have been essential for a manufacturing project in recent years; rail and natural gas. Approximately 50 acres of property remains zoned for residential use; however, it is planned to be designated as commercial in the City’s Future Land Use Map. With the nearby existing residential areas, the property is not attractive or conducive for certain heavy industrial users.

The water and sewer availability and infrastructure have been limiting factors for certain uses as well. As has been highlighted in this column space previously, the City of Franklin’s waste water capabilities from a capacity and consistency point of view currently restrict the types of prospects that we can present this property to. The recent approval of a Planning Grant to study the possibility of combining sewer systems with Southampton County would greatly increase the potential of Pretlow Park and open up the Park to additional markets. This collaborative undertaking is a tremendous step in the right direct.

Most in the community might also not be aware that previously there were deed restrictions requiring certain architectural standards within the Park that have discouraged prospects.

These restrictions, while well intentioned, would have required the Park to develop more in line with a commercial center rather than an industrial park. Fortunately, because of efforts by the current City Council and the Business Friendly Committee, these restrictions have recently been removed. Another step toward progress.

Another detriment is location. Though located on the four-lane highway to the Ports of Virginia, we are a victim of geography. At this time, we are farther from the ports than some of our aggressive neighbors, so the costs to locate a facility further out increases the permanent costs of operation for a business.

Also, between Franklin and the Ports, Suffolk offers thousands of acres of property available for development with rail and gas infrastructure.

So, given all of this, what can happen?

The answer is lots! The time to aggressively pursue new investment is now!

The opening of the widened and otherwise improved Panama Canal will bring bigger ships to Hampton Roads, as Virginia has one of the few places with a deep water channel able to accommodate the ships of tomorrow.

Prior to the Panama Canal expansion, the Port is already seeing record-breaking numbers in the number of TEU’s processed and the largest ships with the deepest drafts confirming the predictions for the next few years. Cargo traffic will grow, as will the demand for warehouse space and supply industries, which we can actively market, too.

Tax levels in our community are attractive. The now-under construction and adjacent Love’s Travel Center will be a support facility for the trucking and distribution warehouse industry.

The development of that property, along with the service road that will be constructed and link to Pretlow Industrial Park, also opens up a key corridor along Highway 58 that the City of Franklin can capitalize on.

Natural gas, a key piece of infrastructure, is moving closer to Franklin due to other recent economic development announcements.

Leadership at the City of Franklin is clearly engaged and supportive of the future development of Pretlow Industrial Park. A strong partnership with FSEDI has been formed and the two are working together to position the City and Pretlow Industrial Park to be as competitive as possible in the Hampton Roads market. Our partnership with The Hollingsworth Companies is also an aggressive step in the right direction. Their national name recognition and marketing is bringing even more attention to the property and its potential.

As time passes, the land to the east will be filled. The utilization of developable real estate has moved steadily, though slowly, westward, and the Pretlow tract is clearly in the path. It is an important part of the City of Franklin’s future tax base, and we should be optimistic about its success. With continued hard work, and creative marketing, some business will find a fit in the Pretlow tract.

AMANDA JARRATT is the President and CEO of Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. Her email is