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Central Florida Industrial Development and Sales Spike in Q1

May 1, 2020 ( Real estate consultant Newmark Knight Frank is reporting this week that Central Florida industrial market saw modest growth in demand with over 325,000 square feet of positive net absorption recorded in the first quarter of 2020. The warehouse/distribution segment accounted for over 70% of the region’s absorbed space, while general industrial space followed with 145,000 square feet of absorption.

The R&D/flex sector struggled with over 48,000 square feet of space returned to the market. Development reached record levels never seen in the region’s history with approximately 7.7 million square feet of new inventory under construction at the close of the quarter, increasing almost 3.0 million square feet over last quarter.

Robust completions of new inventory over the past year pushed the overall rate upward 110 basis points from one year ago, to settle at 5.4%. Average asking rents held level from the previous quarter but dipped slightly from the $6.24/SF all-time-record high recorded this time last year.

Newmark Knight Frank further reports warehouse/distribution space saw growth of $0.07/SF from $6.30/SF one year ago, while general industrial saw a $0.08/SF increase from $5.59/SF and R&D/flex fell from $9.14/SF with a $0.39/SF decrease from one year ago. Although effects from the economic slowdown as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic have not surfaced yet, the market could see a shift in the second half of 2020.

Leasing Demand and Investment Sales

According to Newmark Knight Frank, there were 270 lease deals totaling 3.0 million square feet in first-quarter 2020, a slight increase from the 2.8 million square feet seen one year ago. Warehouse/distribution space led with over 2.6 million square feet, followed by general industrial with 351,000 square feet of leasing activity. This was in stark contrast to the 45,000 square feet of R&D/flex deals. The retail/wholesale industry comprised the bulk of mid- to large-size lease deals in the first quarter, accounting for 408,000 square feet, while home and building supply companies followed with 400,000 square feet. The logistics and distribution sector rounded out the top three with 102,000 square feet.

Sale activity more than doubled from this time last year, as 13 transactions over 1.7 million square feet sold for a combined $149.8 million at the start of 2020. The increase in properties changing hands translated into increased sale prices, as the average price increased from $64/SF to $88/SF. Warehouse/distribution buildings led sales activity, with 1.5 million square feet trading hands. Sales activity could stall as impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak take hold.

Tampa and Saint Petersburg Markets

The Tampa/St. Petersburg market saw demand outpace supply with approximately 319,000 square feet of positive net absorption, shrinking vacancy by 10 basis points from the previous quarter to settle at 5.4%. Warehouse/distribution space accounted for over 94.0% of absorbed space, while the general industrial segment saw more of a balance with just 20,000 square feet of absorption. Four buildings over 404,000 square feet were completed during the quarter as construction activity surged with more than 4.7 million square feet underway at the close of first-quarter 2020.

This was an increase of 2.7 million square feet from the previous quarter, as the market took the number-one spot for industrial development in all of Florida. Over 48% of new space projected to come online has been spoken for, which should hinder significant increases to vacancy from the development taking place. Three new projects totaling over 2.0 million square feet of this activity included Amazon’s 1.1 million-square-foot distribution center in Polk County and two 500,000-square-foot facilities at County Line Distribution Center and Lakeside Logistics Park in the East Hillsborough/Plant City submarket.

The overall average asking rate posted small decreases from the previous quarter, as lower-tier available space impacted averages more than new industrial inventory. This, coupled with landlords not taking advantage of past demand growth and tight market conditions, contributed to the overall weighted average asking rental rate decreasing slightly from the $5.85/SF last quarter. Small fluctuations in asking rates may take place over the next 12 months as expected impacts from current economic conditions could discourage owners from increasing asking rents.

Leasing activity in first-quarter 2020 saw a significant improvement from previous quarters, as 152 transactions over 1.8 million square feet were recorded. This was up 700,000 square feet from one year ago. Warehouse/distribution space dominated with 1.6 million square feet, while the other two segments trailed sharply combining for 240,000 square feet. The retail/wholesale segment accounted for 361,000 square feet of midsize to large lease deals in the market, while home and building supply companies trailed with only two midsize deals totaling 80,000 square feet leased.

There were eight sales totaling 626,000 square feet, worth a combined $54.9 million. This was an improvement from the 220,000 square feet that sold for $18.3 million at the same time last year. The average sale price increased to $87/SF from the $66/SF recorded one year ago. Owners have continued to hold onto prime properties, with the intention of selling them at top dollar. In recent quarters, this has created a shortage of larger industrial properties on the market, while increasing demand for midsize lower-tier investments. The recent shift in national economic conditions as result from the COVID-19 outbreak will likely impact investment sales.


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