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Real estate around the state.

Real Estate Around the State

Industrial real-estate development is nothing new to Northwest Indiana. Much of it, in fact, is quite old.

Some of the area's most attractive industrial sites are abandoned mills and factories that are finding new life in the hands of developers and from tax incentives during the past eight years.

Sites such as the former Budd Co. plant in Gary, which produced automobile bodies; the former Pullman and Standard Rail, or Stanray, plants in Hammond, which turned out railroad cars; and the Blaw-Knox Foundry in East Chicago, which helped make tanks and armor plating, seemed destined for little more than scrap a decade ago as they sat vacant or were well on their way to closure.

Altogether, these former industrial sites have 7.5 million square feet of indoor space, much of it with useful heavy-duty cranes, rail access and loading docks. All but 1.9 million square feet of that is rented today, and the developers say they expect the sites to be full within three to four years.

The space hasn't been the proper fit for every business. The area has seen a miniboom in new industrial construction in the past three years. Worthington Steel Industries opened a minimill in Porter last year, and Magnetics International, a subsidiary of Inland Steel Industries, opened one in Burns Harbor. Four other steel-related plants are now under construction in northern Porter County.

Smaller companies are looking to Northwest Indiana as well. Bill Brant, owner of the Griffith-based Brant Companies, took 10 years to fill two 11-lot subdivisions of a new industrial park in Griffith. It's taken him only two years to fill the third.

"A good bit of it is Illinois companies coming to the Indiana marketplace," says Brant, who is building a new plastic-container plant for Bennett Industries, which is moving operations from Peotone, Ill., to Valparaiso. "It's echoing the residential market," he says.

But many of the businesses going into the renovated industrial space have relatively little capital behind them. For them, it's the cheap used industrial space or nothing. As is the case with much of the industrial economy, times have been tougher for the last year and a half.

One site, the Great Lakes Industrial Center, the former Gate City Steel plant in Gary, has slightly more space available than it did in January 1990. The Hammond Enterprise Center - the former Stanray plant - has a major tenant, Americontainer, which at least temporarily has ceased operations due to financial problems.

Of the other six sites, three have not gained any tenants. Developers are giving discounts and other incentives on already-low rents of $1 to $4 a square foot per year, plus taxes and common-area charges.

"The market has been discounted now; there is no question," says Tom Brown of Ennis Realty, which is involved in renting at three of the eight locations. "There is more space available. But I wouldn't call it a glut."

Janet Cypra, executive director of the Lake County Economic Development Authority, says she's pleased the market for the space has been as strong as it is. "We were all concerned as to how fast would they fill up," says Cypra. "The answer is, there has been an enormous demand. Once the economy picks up, they should be fully leased."

PHOTO : Recycled: East Chicago Enterprise Center was once a tank and armor plating foundry.
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Title Annotation:commercial real estate in Indiana
Author:Isidore, Chris; Pethe, Gary; Margolis, Jay; Kaelble, Steve; Vlahakis, George; Derk, James
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Indiana's Entrepreneurs of the Year (Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 1991) (Cover Story)
Next Article:Slip-sliding ahead?

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