International Airport Centers, a national developer of airport warehouse space owned by Heitman and capitalized by a top-ten employee pension fund took a gamble when it bought 103 acres behind the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport’s cargo terminal. The area had been a dead zone and mostly occupied by small freight-forwarders and local LTL carriers. Convincing capital, tenants and the brokerage community that the airport Aviation Director’s vision for a global intermodal hub was a monumental challenge!
With a lot of persistence, a powerful packaging tool called “The VOTA SUCCESS(tm)” and a visionary development team from Detroit, International Airport Centers Charlotte proved to be an awesome success. A rigorous direct appeal to all of the international airport commerce tenants expanded the customs brokers, trucking companies and next-day air delivery companies in the market and recruited another 30% of the project’s base that was not in the market. Three different fiber optic providers were brought to the project that capitalized on the trend of telecommunication bunkers for the competing “baby Bells”.
In less than 4 years, 11 buildings were developed amounting to 667,000 SF. The project was quickly stabilized with a blend of airport commerce tenants and telephony tenants. The project yield at the time that it was sold was more than 20% than projected and the exit cap rate was among the lowest in the Carolina industrial market that year. The success of the Charlotte development demonstrated that this product-type could work elsewhere and the principal of Cardinal went on to do pre-development, entitlement and leasing work in other markets.