May 2, 2017 | Liz Austin

As St. Louis vacancy rates plummet, the Fenton submarket offers a unique industrial opportunity.

St. Louis’ rich and complex history has already made its mark on the U.S., but the city’s industrial roots have set the stage for a bright future driven by innovation. Situated on two major rivers, with numerous rail lines and several accessible airports, St. Louis’ geographic advantages and enviable infrastructure have long supported businesses in diverse industries — from healthcare to manufacturing to shipping logistics and freight.

Businesses from around the country are taking note, as evidenced by a recent dip in St. Louis’ commercial real estate vacancy rate. In fact, 2016 marked a record-setting year for commercial real estate in St. Louis, bringing with it the absorption of six million square feet of new commercial property. A majority of that property was industrial and warehouse distribution space, the leasing of which contributed to an unprecedentedly low city-wide vacancy rate of 14.7 percent, down from a high of 17.6 percent in 2011.

Equipped for Success

As demand increases for commercial and industrial spaces, so too does demand for the state-of-the-art, future-focused amenities necessary for today’s companies to thrive. Fenton’s Cassens Business Center (CBC) is no exception.

Previously a worn-out industrial facility, CBC is currently undergoing transformative renovations to ensure tenants have access to every possible opportunity for innovation. The property originally served as industrial packaging manufacturer Greif’s St. Louis production facility, and was purpose-built in the 1980s for the manufacturing of steel drums. But the owner closed the plant in 2015, putting the 11-acre property back on the market.

My company, Green Street St. Louis, purchased the abandoned production facility at 2391 Cassens in July. With American Builders and Contractors Supply Co. (ABC) confirmed as the space’s lead tenant, Green Street is in the process of transforming the building into a state-of-the-art industrial facility with warehousing, crane served space, rail service, and outside storage. Cassens will offer best in class systems including a new 20-year warranty TPO roof, ESFR fire suppression, and high efficiency T5 lighting.

A Unique Commercial Opportunity

As any commercial real estate veteran can attest, even the best investments often start out a little worse for wear. Patrick Reilly, an integral part of the Jones Lang LaSalle team that marketed the property, described the pre-renovation CBC as “an old, beat-up metal building that needed a new roof, needed new skin — needed a new everything.” Now, the new and improved property is uniquely positioned to facilitate tenant success.

For companies looking to relocate close to St. Louis metro and within St. Louis County, CBC is a wise investment for several reasons. Due to topographical constraints, the Fenton submarket has historically registered the lowest vacancy rates in the region for industrial real estate. The compact city suburb is positioned strategically between Kirkwood, Webster, and South County — desireable residential areas for executives and business owners — and the I-44 corridor to the southwest, which houses an abundant pool of skilled and semi-skilled hourly labor. This unique geographical advantage entices potential employees looking to avoid a traffic-heavy commute into the city.

What Businesses Stand to Gain

CBC is part of a new wave of repurposed commercial and industrial facilities in St. Louis that have been recently outfitted for the future. CBC’s traditional industrial and manufacturing capabilities merge with future-focused technological capabilities, creating a cutting-edge facility that will elevate and accelerate tenant business.

With its expertise in critical, globally relevant industries, an innovation ecosystem that’s growing more vibrant by the day, and a quality of life that continues to draw national and international attention, St. Louis is poised to re-emerge as a major player in the country’s industrial and manufacturing landscapes. Spaces like CBC represent more than a savvy business opportunity — they’re an investment in the future of St. Louis.

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