OmniTRAX Partners on Colossal Industrial Project in Savannah

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By Barbra Murray

One of North America’s largest private railroad and transportation management companies has joined forces with the Effingham County IDA to develop a state-of-the-art business park in Savannah.

Savannah, Ga.—There’s a big void in the Savannah industrial market and OmniTRAX, Inc. is going to help fill it. The private railroad and transportation management company has joined forces with the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority to develop the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub, a state-of-the-art business park located on a 2,700-acre tract.

OmniTRAX was the answer to ECIDA’s search for a partner to build out the site once known as Research Forest. But this isn’t your typical development team—a city agency and a rail company–nor is it your typical development. Per OmniTRAX’s tentative master plan, Savannah Gateway will be able to accommodate 20 million square feet based upon 25 percent coverage for 1,865 upland acres, with offerings consisting of warehouses, distribution facilities and the like, as well as a single-user mega site and options for purchasing or leasing land. And the project is certainly well located, sited within 12 miles of the Port of Savannah, the fourth busiest port in the U.S.

However, it’s not just the gargantuan size of the development and its coveted port-centric location that make Savannah Gateway unique; it’s the rail access. Both CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads will serve the park. “Dual rail-served property is rare no matter where it is located. To have a site of this size and this close to a major port and two major interstates may not exist anywhere else on the East Coast,” Tony Manos, senior vice president of industrial development at OmniTRAX, told Commercial Property Executive.

Savannah Gateway will not go unnoticed for many reasons, not the least of which is the growing gap between supply and demand in Savannah’s industrial market. The vacancy rate has been on a steady annual decline since  2009, and in the fourth quarter of 2015, it dropped down to an enviable 3 percent, according to a report by commercial real estate services firm Colliers International. There’s an even more favorable figure that will work to Savannah Gateway’s advantage. “The vacancy rate for rail-served industrial space is 0 percent,” Manos added.

And demand is only going to grow stronger. As Manos noted, “It is anticipated the completion of the Panama Canal widening will drive more business to East Coast Ports and the Port of Savannah in particular. ”

With ECIDA supplying the land for Savannah Gateway, OmniTRAX will contribute capital for infrastructure development, including a rail system linking the park’s tenants to the Class 1 operators, as well as marketing services. The company will also share its development prowess, having completed other massive industrial business parks, including the 3,000-acre Great Western Industrial Park in Denver, and the 1,400-acre GEOTRAC Industrial Hub in Brownsville, Tex.

Savannah Gateway won’t take shape right away, as both OmniTRAX and ECIDA are presently performing due diligence on the development arrangement.