Ground broken on spec building

Published 9:50 pm Thursday, October 27, 2016

As construction vehicles lumbered around a work site off Pruden Boulevard on Thursday, officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the building already under construction not far away.

Representatives from the city, the Port of Virginia and the development company were on site and brimming with excitement about the project in Virginia Regional Commerce Park.

“Nothing could be better,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said during the event. “We realize the importance of this building. Businesses are looking at Suffolk.”

Email newsletter signup

The building is the second to be constructed in Virginia Regional Commerce Park. The first holds tenants such as Sumitomo, ArtFX, Caspari, Best Brakes and Massimo Zanetti — all of which are port users, said John Reinhart, chief executive officer and executive director of the Port of Virginia.

“It’s been an excellent year,” said Reinhart, who touted the port’s second consecutive year of positive returns. “At the end of the day, it really is about Virginia.”

The new building will be nearly 300,000 square feet of in-demand industrial space. Suffolk Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said the high ceilings, powerful fire suppression systems and other qualities will make the building highly sought after. Marketing materials distributed at the event point out that the route from the park to Virginia International Gateway includes zero traffic lights and almost all interstate driving.

Officials said this is the first “spec” building — one constructed without a tenant yet — to be built near the Port of Virginia in 10 years.

Though the future building is not leased yet, Reinhart said the coffee industry, which has several other sites in Suffolk, has high potential to be a user of the building. Construction should be completed by next spring.

William Hudgins of Panattoni, the developer, praised Johnson for her leadership that led to a unanimous decision last week by the regional transportation organization to pour $3 billion into road projects, including two additional lanes at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

“You’re not going to be a cul-de-sac,” Hudgins said. “You’re going to be connected to the rest of the world.”

Hudgins also mentioned the huge investment into Virginia’s port facilities that will increase capacity by 50 percent.

The word is getting out, Reinhart said. The message potential port users worldwide are getting is “that Virginia’s all in for the future,” he said.

City Manager Patrick Roberts said the new building illustrates the importance of improving infrastructure and working closely with economic development partners.

“Suffolk is ready to respond to their needs,” Johnson said. “We’re ready for the future.”