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Developer Plans $40M Cold Storage Facility In Pender Commerce Park

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 2, 2021
South Carolina-based RealtyLink plans to build a $40 million cold storage facility in the Pender Commerce Park. (Photo courtesy of Wilmington Business Development)

A commercial real estate developer plans to build a $40 million cold storage facility in Pender Commerce Park, according to an announcement Monday.

Greenville, South Carolina-based RealtyLink, a real estate development company, expects to build up to 300,000-square-feet of refrigerated warehouse space, which will serve a third-party logistics tenant, officials with Wilmington Business Development said in a news release.

The cold storage facility in the 330-acre county-owned Pender Commerce Park would be the area's second cold storage facility, economic development officials said. 

There is a second privately-owned site, the 101,000-square-foot Port of Wilmington Cold Storage facility, on the grounds of the Port of Wilmington.

The planned ReadyLink facility in Pender County is one of five in the works being developed by the company nationally. The firm has plans for similar facilities near Mobile, Alabama; Charleston, South Carolina; Houston; and at an inland port terminal in Gainesville, Georgia, stated the release.

The firm first considered a spot in northern New Hanover County. ReadyLink, however, decided to go with the site in Pender Commerce Park.

"When it comes down to the quality of soils and getting the right site from a logistic standpoint, the Pender Commerce Park made the most sense," Thomas Eldridge, a principal at RealtyLink’s Atlanta office, said Monday.

The company will need a tenant before construction begins, he said, adding that they have several "promising" prospects.

"We just have been focused on finding the right site, which we believe we have. And we are talking with several tenants," Eldridge said. "We do not have a tenant committed to Wilmington as of yet."

It is likely the facility will break ground in the first quarter of 2022, Eldridge said.

The facility can be built to fulfill the needs for both importing and exporting.

"It's really a mixed bag. I think there could be a balance struck between the import and export. Right now there are so many moving parts to it but there is a need on both sides," Eldridge said of the region.

While specifications have not been finalized, the facility is slated to include 50-foot ceilings and feature multiple chambers capable of storing goods at temperatures ranging from -20 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, stated the release. 

“The average cold storage facility in the U.S. is over 35 years old with lower and less efficient clear ceiling heights,” Eldridge said in the release. “We’re going taller with a more efficient state-of-the-art design.”

Officials said that the rapid growth in exported proteins, including pork, are among other reasons why RealtyLink chose the Pender Commerce Park.

“The Port of Wilmington is a fast-growing gateway, and RealtyLink is complementing that growth as we build a solution for tomorrow’s cold chain,” Eldridge said in the release. “There’s a tremendous need for it."

RealtyLink’s investment is among recent industrial activity in Pender Commerce Park over the years, including the newly built Polyhose Inc. site and Ramm Capital Partners' 127,000-square-foot industrial speculative building, which opened in December.

And Edgewater Ventures and McKinley Building Corp. are adding a 425,000-square-foot Class A industrial space known as Wilmington Trade Center, a few miles away from the Pender Commerce Park. 

The region’s agricultural industry, such as the growth Burgaw-based food processor Cardinal Foods, facilitates the need for more space, economic developers said. Cardinal Foods, which processes sweet potato French fries and other locally-harvested foods, has announced an expansion to double its space and workforce.

“RealtyLink’s selection of Pender Commerce Park for this major investment could not have come at a better time,” said WBD CEO Scott Satterfield, who worked closely with the company and local leaders on the economic development project. “Our region’s connections to the global economy are growing closer just as companies chart out post-COVID supply chains.”

WBD, along with Pender County, North Carolina’s Southeast and Duke Energy were among key partners in attracting the facility to the area, stated the release. 

“We welcome this game-changing addition to our region’s inventory of industrial real estate assets,” George Brown, chairman of the Pender County Board of Commissioners, said in the release. “RealtyLink’s cold storage facility will provide a vital link between Southeastern North Carolina’s consumer foods industry and global buyers and suppliers, while generating significant new jobs and investment at Pender Commerce Park.”

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