Lou Robelli has prospered by reading the future — and the future is telling him to build more warehouse space in the Wichita area.
Robelli, owner of Air Capital Delivery and Warehouse, plans to start construction on a 250,000-square-foot warehouse at 77th and I-135, on the grounds of the former Hayes Co., later this month.
He bought the vacant 450,000-square-foot Hayes Co. building a year ago and has since leased out the space to his clients. He also has nearly 900,000 square feet of warehouses on 61st Street, as well as a trucking company.
He’s not the only one who thinks there is growing demand for warehouse space in the region. Several large warehouse projects have come online, are under construction or are about to happen.
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Robelli said the market started to demand more space a year ago and developers are responding.
“It’s happening now,” he said. “The need is there.”
But, he added, “it’s hard to say how long it will last.”
Ted Branson, an industrial broker with Landmark Commercial Real Estate who represents Capps Manufacturing, said that company plans to start construction on an 80,000-square-foot warehouse within the next several months on Custer Street, just north of Pawnee. The company expects to add up to 120,000 square feet of space in the next year or two.
He also noted that Southfork developer Jay Maxwell is considering developing about 30 acres of his project at 47th South and I-135 as warehouses.
Branson, who also represents Robelli, said he sees demand for warehouses growing. He said the city has absorbed more than million square feet of new warehouse space in the last few years.
Some of that space was a 150,000-square-foot building at 29th and Ohio, now occupied by Wurth Service Supply. That went so well that developers Crossland Construction and Steve Barrett are starting work on 100,000 square feet more.
The leasing agent for that project, Brad Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons, said these buildings are signs of a slight expansion of overall demand and desire by existing companies for more modern space, with 28- or 30-foot clear ceilings and long loading docks for trucks, he said.
In its forecast for the industrial market, Weigand predicted that Wichita will slowly absorb industrial space this year, but builders with spec space will have to be patient.
Tidemann said the developers, Crossland Construction and Steve Barrett, have plans for 300,000 square feet elsewhere in the city in another year. Having the space ready to go makes it easier for companies to decided to expand.
“Not everybody has the ability to do a build-to-suit, and having these allows for everybody to move at a faster pace,” he said.