Oxford Properties paved the way for $825 million James Snow Business Park in the town of Milton in the Greater Toronto Area, where it plans to build a highly sustainable logistics center of up to 3.3 million square feet.
The master-planned project is expected to contain 14 buildings and will be developed in phases on the 180-acre site. The initial phase currently under construction includes four buildings and approximately 1.55 million square feet of space, and is being built to specification.
Oxford has developed other industrial projects of this scale, but the company’s industrial manager for North America, Jeff Miller, told RENX this was its first in the GTA.
“It’s very exciting. We’ve done a bunch of these across Canada and the United States through our US companies, so we’re very excited to launch a planned park in the Toronto area,” Miller said. “As we know, this is going to satisfy a huge need on the supply side; there really is a massive lack of real estate infrastructure right now.
“Toronto has the lowest vacancy rate of any major market in North America. . . I think GTA just hit 0.3%, no uptime just vacant. It’s absolutely nothing available.
Scale, flexibility of James Snow Business Park
He said the scale of the James Snow Business Park also increases the flexibility of the types of products it can offer potential tenants.
This phase, for example, includes state-of-the-art buildings ranging from approximately 75,000 square feet (two buildings) to 300,000 square feet and up to one million square feet of rental space.
“We almost look at these planned parks as an ecosystem where we can accommodate all kinds of different sizes and different types of industries and businesses for employers,” he explained.
“Over time they intertwine and work with each other, that’s the intention, if we have sizes (units) from 15,000 square feet to over a million.
“Being able to create this product but do it in a sustainable way is so important to us and increasingly important to our customers as well.”
Oxford incorporates sustainability features
In terms of sustainability, Oxford is integrating solar energy systems into the design of a specific project for the first time.
The four buildings include 400,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels to provide 3.8 million kWh of renewable energy per year.
James Snow Park will be aiming for LEED certification and includes what Oxford calls “substantial work to preserve, restore and enhance the local natural heritage system”.
The design was created in collaboration with Denmark ak83 architects and local practice Glenn Piotrowski Architect.
“Advancing the sustainability initiative in the industry is a key priority for Oxford. On the construction side, we have historically got LEED – that’s almost the price of admission, where we’re going to get basic LEED environmental certification.
“The real question is how to move beyond that. How to install solar? Can we go to net zero for industry? So it was very important for us to integrate that throughout the park.
“We will now integrate solar power as part of the base building infrastructure, along with the dock equipment, lights and roof. It will be part of the use building so that our tenants have clean energy from day one. »
Two years of site preparation work
Oxford acquired the property around four years ago as a greenfield site in an area already designated by the city for future growth.
It is part of Derry Green’s secondary plan, Miller said, and Oxford then worked to get it through the various approvals and rights.
Over the past two years, a massive amount of work and site preparation has been underway.
“We had two years of infrastructure where we had to build two roads, the pond, the green spaces,” Miller said. “We imported one million cubic meters of fill, one hundred thousand truckloads of fill.”
The decision to move forward on specification reflects the prolonged period of tight industrial availability in the GTA – currently well below 1% – and what Oxford is hearing from its own existing tenants in the region.
Essentially, there is a strong belief that demand will continue.
“We own eight million square feet in this market (essentially the Metro West submarket) and we know from our existing customer base the inherent demand that exists,” Miller said, noting that inquiries from potential tenants typically start a time a building is actually constructed.
“We are convinced that he is there and that he will continue to be there. And it could actually come from our own wallet.
Tailwinds for the light industrial sector
Despite some pushback in the e-commerce sector by companies such as Amazon (although much of it has been centered in the United States), Miller said there are many elements to the light manufacturing boom.
“One of the things I still believe in the industry is just the sheer variety and breadth of companies that occupy facilities around an 800 million square foot market,” he said.
“There are literally every type of business under these roofs.”
Global instability and supply chain issues also continue to be a factor. He said third-party logistics companies, needs- and technology-driven companies and other lightweight manufacturers continue to grow and are planning to outsource more of their operations.
Milton itself has seen a flurry of industrial land swaps and development start-ups over the past two years as demand has spilled over from the urban core areas.
Miller said there were several reasons for this.
“I would say a combination of several things. It is first of all the availability of land and it is also the proximity of one of the largest markets in North America.
“It’s really part of the fabric of industrial logistics,” he observed, noting that in the United States, emerging light industrial hubs “can be an hour outside of the core. Milton is five minutes away. It is by no means there.
Oxford plans to deliver all four Phase 1 buildings in the latter part of 2023. At that point, Miller said, decisions will be made about the second phase.