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Atlanta is leading the nation in the absorption of warehouses and distribution centers, reflecting its strength as a prime logistics hub.
Companies moved into more than 31 million square feet of additional industrial space in the metro area over the last 12 months, according to analysis by CoStar Group. This makes Atlanta the top market in the nation for net absorption,
a closely watched metric that indicates demand.
“Industrial is just absolutely booming right now,” said David Kahn, director of market analytics at CoStar. “We’ve seen throughout the country incredible, record demand for industrial space and in Atlanta we have so much going for us.”
The Dallas-Fort Worth market was the second-highest in the nation with 29.3 million square feet of absorption, followed by Chicago with 27.3 million.
The metro area’s large and rapidly-growing population, highway networks, rail connectivity and proximity to two of the fastest-growing ports in the world in Savannah and Charleston are major advantages.
“We have it all and that’s leading to such strong demand growth,” he said.
Industrial vacancies hit a record low for Atlanta at 4.2% and as supply continues to dwindle, local rents are rising faster than the national average.
In response, developers are building more warehouses and distribution centers even before they have agreements to lease them, a practice known as speculative development.
“The push to become more efficient, build up supply chains, really be closer to the consumer — that was already happening before the pandemic, but it’s just accelerated so much more since then,” Kahn said.
More than 25 million square feet of industrial space is under construction in metro Atlanta. Less than 40% of that space is pre-leased, making the local market one of the largest sources of speculative supply in the U.S.
Data from CoStar tracks these real estate metrics going back to 1990. The previous low for vacancy rates in the Atlanta market was 6.6% in 1999.
“In the context of Atlanta, historically the vacancy rate is 9% or 10%. So it’s not only a record low but it’s less than half of the normal rate,” Kahn said.
Unsurprisingly, this competition for space led to record rent growth over the last year as well with a 7.6% increase — more than three times the historical average.
The previous high for net absorption in the market was also in 1999, when it was about 28 million square feet.
The largest new industrial spaces in Atlanta were occupied by multinational corporations including Amazon’s four-story, 2.8 million-square-foot facility in Stone Mountain, Goodyear’s 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse in Newnan
and three new distribution centers Home Depot opened across the metro, totaling nearly 2 million square feet.
Kahn pointed out that the metro area CoStar uses to measure the Atlanta market does not capture some fast-growing parts of the logistics ecosystem.
“The 31 million square feet of absorption doesn’t even include Jackson County and Gainesville,” he said.
Jackson County saw companies move into 3.3 million square feet of new industrial space over the last year and Hall County saw 2.4 million in net absorption.
The e-commerce boom driving the industrial development is unlikely to slow anytime soon since federal Covid-19 relief payments have left many Americans “sitting on a ton of savings,” Kahn said.
“Because of all that fiscal stimulus, there’s likely a pretty sustainable demand for goods, which leads to demand for getting those goods for people. And now those people want same-day or next-day delivery,” he said.
Leasing activity indicates that the Atlanta market could see similar or even stronger absorption rates over the next few quarters.
Deals like the Purple Innovation Inc. expansion in McDonough signal continued demand.
“I’ve been covering Atlanta and commercial real estate for about seven years now, and it seems like everyone always thinks: ‘We’re going to get over our skis. We’re building too much. It’ll slow down eventually.’ And it never seems to.” Kahn said.
The South metro area continues to be the core of new large warehouses and distribution centers with more than 13 million square feet under construction.
North of the city, the corridor along I-75 around Kennesaw has 5.8 million square feet of industrial space underway.
With plans for The Northeast Georgia Inland Port near Gainesville, Hall County is likely to see increasing development.
“That’s definitely something that would be a boon for that market,” Kahn said.
The project, which would provide a direct link to the Port of Savannah via Norfolk Southern, received $47 million in federal funding in June.
“The I-85 corridor is also really hot,” he said.
The area around Duluth, Suwanee and Buford has nearly 1.6 million square feet under construction.
Credit to: Grace Donnelly – Reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle
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