As Bridge Development Partners begins construction on the second and final phase of Bridge Point 78 in central New Jersey, the real estate company is turning its attention to Philadelphia.
The Chicago-based developer, in partnership with DH Property Holdings, landed a lease with TJX Cos. last year for a 283,000-square-foot build-to-suit at 9801 Blue Grass Road in Philadelphia. Bridge is hopeful the build-to-suit for TJX Cos. – which operates the TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods retail chains – is the first of many industrial deals it will eventually have in Philadelphia.
“We found that right in the middle of Covid,” said Jeff Milanaik, a partner with Bridge who oversees buying and developing industrial buildings throughout the Northeast. “There are other sites we are looking at and we are very much focusing on Philadelphia.”
Bridge is a privately-owned company formed in 2000 that focuses on industrial development. In the time since Milanaik joined the company in 2014, Bridge has amassed more than 12.5 million square feet of industrial space across the Northeast valued at $2.6 billion. Bridge Point 78 is among the crown jewels in that portfolio.
Located in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, the industrial center has been developed on a former Ingersoll Rand manufacturing site that was “very complicated,” Milanaik said. “We weren’t afraid to take on challenges but the magnitude to take this on was huge.”
Environmental remediation along with its hilly topography made development challenging at the 400-acre site and $50 million was spent on site work alone. Bridge partnered with Texas Teachers Retirement System to develop Bridge Point 78 in two phases to manage the risk of constructing a total of six buildings with 3.86 million square feet.
The first phase consisted of four buildings totaling 2.2 million square feet and the second phase, now underway, involves two buildings – one totaling 1.4 million square feet and another at 262,500 square feet – all on 100 acres.
That risk, however, was coupled with the reality that demand for large warehouse-distribution buildings remains high in the New Jersey market where land is constrained, Milanaik said. With the first phase, Bridge moved ahead with building 975,000 square feet on speculation and soon leased it to Uniqlo Co.
“That really validated the park,” he said.
The remainder of the buildings in the first phase leased up to Scotts Miracle-Gro and Mark Anthony Brands, a beverage distributor. Last October, Bridge sold the first phase for $275 million to PGIM Real Estate.
“We’re really bullish that we’re at the right place at the right time,” Milanaik said.
That goes for the Philadelphia region as well and Bridge’s focus on it. “I like that market a lot,” he said. “It’s the eighth fastest growing MSA in the country. My sons went to Villanova and lived in Center City and I got comfortable with the city, and the supply of modern distribution buildings are lacking. We have taken a real liking to it.”
When it comes to investment and development, Milanaik said he’d “like to be as close to Center City as I can.”
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