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In logistics real estate, smaller is getting bigger

Facilities less than 50,000 square feet have seen massive leasing surge all year, JLL report says

Ecommerce causes last-mile networks to creep closer to consumers (Photo: Shutterstock)

In the white-hot world of logistics real estate, small is the current big thing.

Facilities with less than 100,000 square feet accounted for more than half of logistics real estate leasing activity in the third quarter, according to data published Tuesday by real estate services giant JLL Inc. (NYSE:JLL). Demand was even more pronounced for facilities of between 10,000 and 50,000 square feet, according to the company. During the first nine months, about 2,400 leases were signed for the smaller facilities, far outpacing any other size-based category, JLL said.

The level of interest among tenants, developers and investors is such that renewal rents for smaller spaces routinely increase by 30% to 50%, JLL estimated.

Demand for smaller locations is being fueled by the growth in “urban logistics,” where facilities are positioned near densely populated cities to support last-mile deliveries of online orders. Many of those buildings are occupied by multiuse tenants, and new facilities are expected to emphasize vertical construction to squeeze as much capacity out of space-constrained and expensive real estate.

“The growth in online shopping and the need for fast delivery times is driving demand for urban industrial space unlike ever before,” said Leslie Lanne, JLL’s executive managing director, urban logistics. “E-commerce will keep driving the need for vertical space, and as a result we’re going to see this new urban logistics asset class spark progressively more developer and investor interest.”

According to JLL research, nearly 3.5 million square feet of industrial space was under construction by quarter’s end in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island, which comprise New York City’s Outer Boroughs. In the first quarter of 2019, that total was 542,680 square feet, JLL said.

By contrast, quarterly leasing activity was very light in the larger categories of 500,000 square feet and higher. In the 1 million-square-foot range, known in the industry as “big box,” leasing transactions were virtually nil, JLL said. That shouldn’t be construed as a lack of interest, however. Big-box supply has been exhausted by the unceasing multiyear demand for large buildings to support massive e-fulfillment operations. 

In Chicago, home of the country’s largest industrial market with 1.4 billion square feet, no 600,000 square foot buildings are, at this time at least, available to be leased in 2022, said Jack Rosenberg, the Chicago-based national director of logistics and transportation of the industrial advisory group at real estate advisory Colliers International Inc. In Las Vegas, 500,000-square-foot buildings will not be available for lease until the fourth quarter of next year, Rosenberg said.

Nationally, more than 137.9 million square feet of total industrial product was leased last quarter, JLL said. That represented a high-water mark for the year, it said.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.