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SubTropolis eCommerce Center - 475,200 SF facility

Estates Gazette: Underground, Overground

Stacey Meadwell – National and supplements editor, Estates Gazette

E-commerce, technology, shortage of land, urban logistics, autonomous vehicles, staff shortages, power… these and many other factors are increasingly influencing distribution warehouse design. But what will warehouse space look like in the future?

Large warehouses have already seen the introduction of mezzanines and there are more outlandish proposals for airborne or underwater distribution units out there.

Jonathan Compton, head of industrial and logistics strategy at CBRE, says: “For warehouses in urban areas, design features will be more innovative and dramatic as the solutions to overcome the ever-more acute reduction in available industrial land.

“Every day we read about another patented idea to solve the supply chain challenges. We have seen proposals for underground warehouses, multi-storey buildings, underwater solutions and airships that could hover at 45,000ft releasing drones for fast delivery.

“Ultimately, it will boil down to familiar issues such as overcoming congestion, reducing pollution and sourcing suitable land close to the chimney pots.”

Going underground

Just 10 minutes outside Kansas is the world’s largest underground business complex. The SubTropolis is an industrial park housed in an excavated mine the size of 140 football fields.

The mining of 270m-year-old limestone deposits has created a dry, brightly lit facility, with miles of wide, paved streets accessible at street level. The removal of limestone over many years by the room and pillar method has created a space which could be purposebuilt for industrial.

The upshot is 6m sq ft of lettable space with more than 8m sq ft available for expansion. There are 8.2 miles of lighted, wide, paved roads, 2.1 miles of railway track and more than 500 truck dock locations.

The complex is home to more than 55 local, national and international businesses – from auto parts suppliers to data centres – with 1,700 employees.

And whether the requirement is for 10,000 or 1m sq ft, a tenant can be in their space within 150 days.

Such an idea could be coming to the UK soon, albeit on a much smaller scale. In the summer, Hounslow Council granted developer Formal Investments planning permission for a 2m sq ft underground warehouse on a site alongside The Parkway (A312) and Bath Road (A4) near Heathrow Airport.

The space above ground will be used as a park. The warehouse will sit beneath it in a style similar to the car park beneath Hyde Park, SW1. The development will be built in phases using the sealed top-down construction method, which was used to build the Shard, SE1.

It will take between seven and 10 years to complete the project.

The sky’s the limit

John Harcourt, head of property at Kajima, the UK arm of global property developer and investor Kajima Corporation, says that for urban areas and where demand for last-mile deliveries is high, a more innovative solution to warehouse design is required.

“The logical long-term solution is to build up like our Victorian forebears. While there are inevitably questions from investors and occupiers as to the practicalities of  ulti-storey warehouses, most issues are simply a question of engineering. And it is infinitely more practical a solution to the last-mile problem than alternatives such as drone deliveries buzzing around an already busy London airspace.

“In the UK the conversation is around two-, three- or even four-storey buildings, but Kajima has developed multi-storey warehouses in Japan – particularly in Tokyo – for a number of years now; the tallest of which is seven storeys high. The sky really is the limit.”

Powerhouses

The need for more power and the need to reduce the cost of that power will increasingly influence the design of industrial and distribution facilities.

Jonathan Compton, head of industrial and logistics strategy at CBRE, says: “We expect to see a greater emphasis on the reliance of available power at the regional  distribution centres, particularly if autonomous and electrified HGVs become mainstream over the next decade.”

Ian Worboys, chief executive of pan-European logistics investor-developer P3, agrees: “I can see a time when warehouses will need to be their own powerhouses.

“While the availability of labour is one of the key drivers in logistics location decisions at present, as the level of automation and technology in warehouses increases, the availability of power is likely to become an increasing concern.

“The solution might be for logistics facilities to be built with photovoltaics on the roof, powering Tesla batteries that in turn charge driverless forklifts and delivery  vehicles.”

In fact, IM Properties has made a move in that direction. It built a 69,000 sq ft warehouse in Birmingham with PV roof panels. The building, which Argos has leased and will move into at the end of the year, is electricity cost-neutral and could be the first of many.

A spokesman for IM Properties says once the site is operational it will collect the data, so it has evidence of the real-time benefits to take to the market.

Why Ford's suppliers are going underground (literally)

Why Ford suppliers are going underground (literally)

In the shadow of a Ford plant, auto suppliers toil 100 feet down in a former Kansas City limestone mine.

I’ve been to a lot of unusual places in my long career as a journalist, but SubTropolis in Kansas City takes the cake. It’s the world’s largest underground storage facility, 6 million square feet 80 to 150 down in a former limestone mine. The limestone is 270 million years old, but the use of these caves for climate-controlled businesses only dates to 1964.

SubTropolis, owned by the wealthy Hunt family, is like an underground city, with the major benefit in hot-summer, cold-winter Kansas City of being a steady 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. No wonder the place gets a 100 percent Energy Star rating — no heating or air conditioning necessary! The U.S. Post Office stores $6 billion in stamps down here, and LightEdge Solutions maintains a naturally cooled $58 million data center.

I’m down in SubTropolis for Automotive Alley, the newest addition. In 2011, Ford announced a $1.1 billion expansion of its Claycomo assembly plant, which makes the F-150 truck (America’s bestselling vehicle) and the Transit van. SubTropolis borders Ford’s property, so what better location for Ford suppliers?

On the surface here, Ford maintains a 29-acre logistics facility where it stages 1,800 Transits, 80 percent of which get shipped by rail from here. But a lot of them go underground, where three companies, Adrian Steel, Knapheide and Ground Effects, have only recently begun “upfitting” them for customers like Comcast, Duke Energy, Western Pest Control, Geek Squad and Halliburton.

First stop: Canada-based Ground Effects, where plant manager April Adams shows me rows of F-150s that are having bed liners sprayed in (a $475 factory option). Across the way, Transits are getting cargo spray floors, Kicker subwoofers and remote starts. The whole spraying thing gets me concerned about ventilation down here, but President and CEO Ora Reynolds and VP Mike Bell assure me that the place is naturally air conditioned through 17 openings. “We have the EPA down here,” Bell says. “Do you think they’d allow us to have bad air quality?” Go to MNN.com for more…

Doing business 100 feet underground - CNNMoney.com

Doing business 100 feet underground

Here’s a novel way to slash your business expenses in half: Relocate 100 feet underground.
In the Midwest, many businesses have done just that.

In states like Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, there’s a growing number of firms doing business in subterranean spaces that were once mines. Starting in the 1960s, these spaces were rehabilitated for commercial use.

SubTropolis, in Kansas City, Mo., is a well-known example.

The underground business complex was an active limestone mine in the 1940s, owned by real estate firm Hunt Midwest. As mining started to taper off, it left a vast network of empty caves.

“In the 1960s came the ‘a-ha!’ moment,” said Ora Reynolds, president and CEO of Hunt Midwest. “These spaces could be reused.”

Since then, Hunt Midwest has gradually transformed the defunct spaces.

“Six million square feet of it is ready, and we have room to build out another 8 million square feet based on demand,” said Dick Ringer, SubTropolis’ general manager.

Today, 1,600 people to work at one of the 52 businesses that lease space in SubTropolis’ space, including tech and manufacturing firms, consumer products companies and auto firms.

“Ford at one time used to store its Mavericks here,” said Reynolds. And the U.S. Postal Service currently stores $2 billion worth of stamps in SubTropolis.

“The constant temperature and humidity [it’s 68 to 72 degrees year-round] are ideal for storing stamps and other products,” she said.

Other advantages: There’s underground parking. Construction costs are low since there’s already a natural roof in place — all they need to build are walls.

“We’re a ‘green’ workspace since we’re conserving natural resources,” Ringer said. “And by being deep underground, we’re a pretty secure location for businesses.”

Employees enter SubTropolis through one of 19 entrances that accommodate cars and trucks. This also facilitates cross-ventillation of natural air, although tenants can also add air conditioning and dehumidifiers. Go to CNNMoney.com for more…

SubTropolis is perfect for ecommerce, supply chain operations

In Kansas City, It’s the Rise of the Underground

Demand for Space Below Ground Is Increasing in Missouri; a Steady 65 Degrees
By Max Taves, November 26, 2014

It is easy to underestimate the size of the Kansas City, Mo., industrial real-estate market. That’s because a big chunk of it is hidden from sight — underground.

Occupying more than 21.8 million square feet, Kansas City’s industrial underground space—80 to 150 feet deep, in former limestone mines—is the largest in the U.S., comprising more than 7% of the metropolitan area’s total industrial area.

And demand for the space is growing, buoyed by resurgent manufacturing and expanding distribution centers seeking low-cost real estate requiring less energy to operate.

Next week, FoodServiceWarehouse.com, a restaurant-equipment supply company, will be moving into 475,000 square feet of space that sits more than 100 feet below the surface in a facility called SubTropolis, the largest underground industrial space in the U.S. Signed in May, FoodServiceWarehouse’s lease was the largest by square feet—above or below ground—in all of Kansas City last quarter and the second-largest this year, according to real-estate data firm CoStar Group Inc.

“It’s kind of what we call an underground city,” says Ora Reynolds, president of SubTropolis owner Hunt Midwest Real Estate Development. SubTropolis has 8.2 miles of paved roads, 2.1 miles of railroad tracks, more than 500 truck docks, 1,600 parking spaces and 50 million square feet of space below ground. It’s 6 million square feet of leasable space is fully occupied by 55 companies and their 1,600 employees. Go to WSJ.com for more…