By Patrick Franklin | Asset Manager Merritt Properties LLC
The recipe for commercial real estate growth is simple: pro-business government, advanced infrastructure, quality labor and developable land.
In 2017, Merritt Properties, a private, full-service developer with more than 19 million square feet of space throughout Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, recognized Jacksonville had those ingredients.
The company expanded into the market at the end of 2021 and has two projects in its Northeast Florida portfolio so far.
Jacksonville’s growth is staggering in all sectors of real estate.
According to CoStar’s real estate research, since 2017, the flex/industrial sector alone delivered more than 12 million square feet of new product while posting a positive absorption rate of more than 5 million square feet.
The average asking rent nearly doubled from $4.50 per square foot to $7.80.
Currently, Jacksonville’s light industrial market sits at 5.3% vacancy with the majority of space being warehouses with at-grade drive ins.
Construction of this product type has been limited over the last five years, with only a little more than 200,000 square feet having been delivered.
Merritt Properties, based in Baltimore, Maryland, tracked these upward trends and entered Jacksonville’s commercial real estate scene with the purchase of a 25-acre tract of land to build 266,200 square feet of flex/light industrial space at Imeson Landing Business Park.
Delivery is expected during the third quarter of 2022.
The company also acquired an existing three-building light industrial portfolio in the Mandarin area known as Magnolia Park that now is fully leased.
Founded in 1967 by Leroy Merritt, Merritt Properties is a long-term holder of commercial property, specializing in the development of Class A, dock-loaded, small-bay, flex/light industrial warehouses to accommodate users from 3,000 to 20,000 square feet or more – a sector that is gravely underserved and in high demand in Jacksonville.
Merritt has $50 million in investments across two projects, and that easily could triple as the company actively pursues additional land opportunities across the metropolitan area.
Merritt does not develop and manage its properties from afar, which is why the developer opened a Jacksonville office for its leasing, customer service and construction team members.
With no exit strategy in mind, Merritt envisions Jacksonville as an integral part of the company’s future and is confident that the market’s appetite for flex/light industrial space will continue to grow.
Patrick Franklin relocated from Baltimore, Maryland, to open Merritt Properties’ Jacksonville office. He handles all leasing and business development responsibilities for the commercial real estate firm in Florida.