Through a challenging year for nearly every property sector, industrial real estate has consistently stood apart from the crowd. Having already had solid footing, the surge in e-commerce demand strengthened the sector even further, with falling vacancies nationwide pushing rents up an average of 4.8 percent during the 12 months ending in December.
Regardless of these indicators, industrial transaction volume still fell to some $29 billion, or three-quarters of the 2019 total, according to CommercialEdge data. However, this doesn’t necessarily bring bad tidings, given the context and the much more significant slowdown in office and multifamily deal volumes.
CommercialEdge data shows that the top 10 markets for industrial transactions in 2020 include historical industrial powerhouses as well as notable emerging markets. Combined, their investment volumes account for close to 60 percent of nationwide sales in the sector. Five of these metros had a higher volume this year than last, with one key market seeing an increase of nearly 40 percent.
10. DALLAS-FORT WORTH
The strength of the Metroplex’s industrial market has long attracted investors. Vacancy in the metro was 4.3 percent in December, highlighting the boost in demand from the growth of e-commerce, while rents stood at $4.49 at year-end, marking a 4.3-percent year-over-year uptick. Developers have also taken note: More than 20 million square feet of new supply was underway at the start of 2021.
The $1.1 billion in industrial deals closed in the Metroplex in 2020 was closely split between Class A and B assets. In one of the largest transactions in the metro, VEREIT and Ocean West Capital Partners joined forces to pay $246.7 million for the 3.1 million-square-foot Dallas Global Industrial Center. The 14-building property in West Dallas was built in 1975 and is leased to The Home Depot.
Denver is one of the nation’s fastest-growing industrial markets in terms of inventory: At the end of 2020, the metro’s 8.3 million square feet under construction accounted for nearly 7 percent of total stock, the highest among industrial markets tracked by CommercialEdge. Investor interest in the market has also grown, with 2020’s $1.2 billion in deals marking a nearly 40 percent increase compared to the previous year.
Digital Realty’s $97.4 million sale of a 287,231-square-foot property at 11900 E. Cornell Ave. in Aurora, Colo., marked one of the market’s largest deals of the year. The asset, which is a mix of industrial and data center space, was part of a larger, $557.3 million portfolio deal across the U.S. and Canada.
Nearly $1.4 billion in industrial deals closed in Atlanta in 2020, placing the country’s top industrial development market on our list. Although overall volume increased by only a modest 5.9 percent compared to 2019, per-square-foot pricing jumped up nearly one-quarter to $78, even as older assets garnered slightly more interest, with Class B investments topping $760 million.
One of Atlanta’s largest single-building transactions of 2020 was Granite REIT’s $80.3 million acquisition of a 1 million-square-foot property at 8500 Tatum Road in Palmetto, Ga. Public records indicate a Starwood Capital affiliate was the seller. The asset opened its doors in 2019 and is fully leased to PVH Corp. for 15 years.
7. NEW JERSEY
Boasting a tight vacancy rate of 3.6 percent in December, the Garden State’s industrial market is thriving. However, even though more than $1.4 billion in deals closed in 2020, this actually was a 19 percent drop compared to the previous year due to slowing transaction velocity. Sales averaged $133 per square foot, a 24.6 increase percent from 2019.
BentallGreenOak’s $164 million acquisition of a 925,000-square-foot property at 50 Veronica Ave. in Franklin Township, N.J., was the largest transaction to close. A joint venture between Crow Holdings and The Carlyle Group sold the facility, which is fully occupied by LG Electronics under a seven-year lease. The property delivered in the first quarter of 2020.
6. INLAND EMPIRE
The Inland Empire’s massive industrial market had a banner year in 2020, with $1.6 billion in sales. At the end of the year, rents averaged $6 per square foot, for a considerable 6.9 percent year-over-year gain, the fastest growth in the nation. At the same time, the market’s vacancy rate of 2.8 percent was the lowest in the country as developers scrambled to add more inventory—projects totaling nearly 15 million square feet were underway at year-end.
The largest transaction in the market was Dedeaux Properties’ February disposition of a 1 million-square-foot building within the 920-acre Sycamore Canyon Distribution Park in Riverside, Calif. TA Realty acquired the asset for $131.7 million. Cardinal Health is the sole tenant of the property at 6275 Lance Drive.
Boston’s industrial market faced some challenges in 2020. In December, the market’s vacancy was 11 percent, far higher than the national rate of 6.2 percent. And although a robust $1.7 billion in transactions closed through the year, this marked a steep, 38.5 percent decline compared to 2019. However, rent growth has been strong: December rents averaged nearly $7.50, highlighting a 6.7 percent year-over-year increase—the highest growth outside of California.
Clarion Partners’ $355 million purchase of a former Necco plant at 135 American Legion Highway in Revere, Mass., was the largest deal of the year. The seller, a joint venture between Atlantic Management and VMD Cos., had paid less than $55 million for the asset in early 2017, a little more than a year before the candy manufacturer went out of business. The asset remained vacant until late 2019 when Amazon signed an agreement to open a distribution center at the address.
4. BAY AREA
The Bay Area’s $1.7 billion in industrial deals in 2020 marked a 10.4 percent increase compared to 2019. Pricing per square foot also increased, averaging $184. Over the past decade, prices have had an average annual growth rate of 17.4 percent, up from $43 per square foot in 2010. Demand for expansive, modern warehouse space in the region, combined with a dearth of properties with large footprints, has at the same time driven rents to among the highest in the nation—$10.26 as of December—even as the market’s vacancy is only moderately tighter than at the national level.
LDK Ventures’ $146.6 million September disposition of the Bay Area Logistics Center in Richmond, Calif., was the largest of several major industrial deals closed in 2020. CenterPoint Properties bought the 707,820-square-foot property, which delivered in 2017 and features 36-foot clear heights, more than 150 dock-high loading doors and 180-foot truck courts. Located at 2995 Atlas Road, the building is fully leased to Amazon.
Phoenix’s importance as an industrial hub has grown in recent years, owing to expansive population growth and improved access to markets across the Southwest. The metro recorded more than $2 billion in transactions in 2020, a 22.3 percent jump from the year before. At the same time, the market experienced record absorption, with rents climbing 4.6 percent to $6.73 in December. Rent growth may moderate going forward, though, with 7.2 million square feet of industrial developments underway at the end of December.
The Phoenix–West submarket drew $952.4 million in investment activity through 2020—nearly half of the metro’s total. In the submarket’s largest transaction, BlackRock paid $72.5 million for the 684,420-square-foot Southwest Industrial Center I at 7775 W. Buckeye Road. CBRE Global Investors had acquired the asset from Hines in mid-2018.
As the country’s largest industrial market, Chicago performed well in 2020, with significant leasing activity and notable movement on the development side. At the end of the year, some 11.5 million square feet was under construction, positioning the metro for even further growth. Transaction activity was, however, a bit more muted than in years past: Although deals topped $2.1 billion in 2020, this was an overall decline of 26.9 percent from 2019, when investment volume neared the $3 billion mark. Chicago’s transaction totals have exceeded $2 billion in each of the past five years.
In July, KKR paid Prologis $176 million for two assets within Kenosha Enterprise Park in Kenosha, Wis., marking one of the metro’s largest industrial deals of the year. The buildings have a combined 1.5 million square feet and are fully leased to Amazon. Prologis had developed the properties in 2014.
1. LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles’ industrial sector closed 2020 on a strong note. Even though the market’s more than $3 billion in transactions was a 9.9 percent decrease from the previous year, per-square-foot pricing increased to a record high of $191. At the same time, the market’s industrial rents grew by 6.8 percent, outpacing all but the Inland Empire. Vacancy remained low at 4.5 percent and is likely to tighten further, given only 1.8 million square feet in projects was underway at year-end, likely pushing rents and pricing up even further.
At the end of December, sporting equipment firm JR286 closed its $110 million purchase of the 849,570-square-foot Harbor Gateway Industrial Center in Torrance, Calif.—the largest single-building transaction of the year. John Hancock Life Insurance Co. provided $63 million in acquisition financing. Delivered between 2004 and 2007, the three-building asset features a secured yard, expansive truck courts and covered loading docks.