For The Foxfield Co. President Harry E. Kitchen, Jr., his decision to invest in 700 acres abutting the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Bartow County came down to three things: location, location and location.
“It’s a tremendous site for the use of industrial development,” he said. “The visibility, the accessibility and also, the road improvements that have already been planned that are in the works now. You have the first leg of the widening of Cass-White Road going on now, so you really have unprecedented road access and accessibility to two diamond interchanges … it couldn’t be any better than it is.”
On Wednesday, a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) application was submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the Busch Commerce Park project. Per that application, the proposed complex would consist of about 5 million square feet of warehouse and distribution facilities, with space available for as many as four hotel sites.
The approximately 729-acre park would have boundaries along Busch Drive, Old Cass-White Road and Old Grassdale Road. Bartow County Board of Assessors data lists the 2018 fair market value of the property at $2.1 million.
“From a logistics standpoint, it’s extremely attractive,” Kitchen said. “We always look for quality product or land, and the location of being in the northern arc of the [metropolitan statistical area] of Atlanta as well as right on I-75 is really ideal for manufacturing as well as distribution.”
Kitchen’s Bluffton, South Carolina-based company primarily develops industrial and mixed-use projects. Among others, the company is currently working on the 180-acre Covington Town Center project in Newton County.
“Their plans are to develop that property in our regular business park zoning, which is light industrial,” said Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor. “Cass-White Road is a major industrial development for Bartow County, and it’s just where all the action is happening. We’re eager to see him develop in Bartow County and to bring the quality jobs and investment that this community needs.”
According to the DRI application filed by Bartow County Zoning Administrator Brandon Johnson, the developer looks to have the entire project completed by December 2021.
Both Kitchen and Taylor, however, said that timeline is far too ambitious.
“It sounds like that might be a good start date, but they’re certainly not going to be completed by that date. That’s just pushing things a little too fast, as far as I’m concerned,” Taylor said. “At the extreme best circumstances, it would maybe be four years before it could be built out.”
Kitchen said he expects full build-out for the estimated $275 million project to take seven to 10 years. However, he also said he expects construction on the project to begin before 2020.
“The first building could start groundbreaking in six to eight months,” he said.
While manufacturing and distribution will anchor the proposed development, Kitchen said the site does offer opportunities for other types of businesses to emerge.
“There are some small commercial pods on either end of the property, there’s a strip of commercial that runs from Highway 411, down 411 between the railroad tracks and 411,” he said. “And then there’s a small pod of commercial — not very much — off Cass-White and Busch Drive.”
Right now, Taylor said the bulk of the 700-acre plus property is zoned for business park developments.
“That would be up to rezoning if they bring us a really good prospect and a good model flag for hotel rezoning,” he said. “We would like to see that close to the interchange off Cass-White … it’s open to the County looking at maybe rezoning some areas for more commercial around the exit.”
Taylor said he anticipates the project tying into the Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor (RCDC) project and taking advantage of some of the existing infrastructural resources in the area.
“I’m not sure about rail, rail is kind of a ways away, but I think the Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor is a very important part of this development,” he said. “I think the investors are looking at that development in the corridor and they see a really good hotspot as far as locating at the end of the corridor and being directly on I-75. It’s going to be very attractive for businesses and logistically speaking, it’s going to be really good as far as trucks and vehicles on I-75.”
The existing — and future — transportation infrastructure near the proposed development was certainly a factor in Kitchen’s decision to invest in the property.
“We sold 700 acres in Savannah of industrial land and it fronted a two-lane road,” he said. “So the road improvements that the community is making and have had in the plans for a while are very good and very positive.”
Per the DRI filing, the development is projected to generate 2,565 total daily trips — 1,795 in the form of cars and 770 in the form of trucks.
“Right now, it’s very strategically located with the two full diamond interchanges on either end of the property, and I think being in close proximity to the Appalachian Regional Port is also a real plus,” Kitchen said. “One of the keys to the site or the area of northwest Georgia there is you can reach 75 percent of the United States population in a two-day truck ride from there. That’s pretty significant when you’re talking about logistics.”
The company, Kitchen said, has not pursued any tax abatements or subsidies — either from local or state government agencies — at this point in the project.
As for the number of buildings on the property — or any potential end-users — Kitchen said it’s too early to make any official announcements. Nor did he have any projections for potential employment generation numbers, although he did say he expects the park to be a “significant economic engine” for Bartow.
“We haven’t quantified the exact dollars or job projections yet, but I would just say at this point it’s going to be a significant, positive economic impact and contribute significantly to the job creation in the area,” he said.
Taylor likewise said he expects the commerce park, once online, to have a major economic impact on the county.
“I think it feeds our pipeline for future jobs and it keeps people in Bartow County working and in good-paying, quality jobs,” he said. “And that is what we’re all about.”