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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Kennedy: Warehouse sprawl is swallowing the ground

If you’ve ever used the Interstate Highway system to travel to points south of here, you’ve certainly been impressed by the stretch of I-95 through central New Jersey where massive warehouses hug the road. Huh.

Familiar names shine on buildings: home goods vendor Wayfair; pet-supplier Petco; And, of course, everything from Amazon. Then there are the unfamiliar people, often in some form of “Logis” named after them, designating third parties who handle supply-chain logistics for others.

On our drive down and back over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, Warehouse stood as watchdog along I-95’s New Jersey Turnpike when we last traversed the pre-COVID​ route. Playing behind the scenes, however, is a COVID-related concern: warehouse sprawl.

Data from commercial real estate firms raised concerns: New industrial construction is adding millions of square feet every quarter, with vacancies at an all-time low. In Central Jersey, 10 million square feet were under construction in the second quarter, and in some submarkets near Trenton, the vacancy rate was 1.5% or less, according to brokerage Newmark Group.

The state’s popularity in warehousing stems from its highway network and proximity to the Port of New York and New Jersey — the second busiest in the nation, according to a March report by New Jersey Future, a nonprofit focused on smart development.

Port traffic is increasing as shipping increases from countries using the Atlantic Ocean for crossings, the report says, requiring more space to store and sort “all the goods” arriving from ships. Meanwhile, an increase in online shopping driven by changing consumer habits rooted in the coronavirus pandemic is also driving demand for warehouses.

The report, titled “Warehouse Sprawl: Plan Now or Suffering the Consequences,” noted that New Jersey has so far been smart in directing demand for sites developed for industrial uses, such as manufacturing, that are closer to port terminals. . But as redevelopable land thins, warehousing has “craped southward” along the turnpike, threatening open space, including farmland.

The report said New Jersey only had to look west, to the nearby Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, to see what the consequences might be, with a quarter of that area’s agricultural land lost between 1997 and 2017. .

The report advocates a regional perspective, as warehousing, therefore dependent on land and infrastructure, is critical to the state’s economy: 1 in 8 residents work in areas dedicated to the storage and distribution of goods, which is 50 States have the largest share.

“Each of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities has their own narrow needs and interests, which may not turn out to be the most efficient macro-level solution from a freight-movement standpoint,” the report said.

Few in the state legislature are looking into the issue, but a bill issued in April to amend New Jersey’s primary land-use law to require collaboration between towns on new warehouses remains a home remedy.

marlene kennedy Independent columnist. The views expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. approach him [email protected]

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