Back in April, COVID’s impact on our industry was undeniable. Real estate development was put on hold. Surveyors couldn’t be out in the field. Municipal meetings weren’t taking place, and new project inquiries were almost non-existent. It was a scary time and the future was unclear.
Fast forward to fall and things are looking up. While there is still a lot of uncertainty, there is opportunity as well.
Here is our perspective on local real estate development trends and the impact we foresee in the months ahead:
MARKET SECTORS DOING WELL
Industrial Warehouse and Distribution
- No surprise here! With online retail sales higher than ever, the demand for industrial warehouse and distribution space is growing, especially throughout the Philadelphia suburbs, Berks County, and the Lehigh Valley.
- This is one market sector where not only do we continue to see projects move forward this year, but move forward with an increased urgency. To date, we have several projects in various stages that combined could top 3 Million SF.
- One of them includes a 66,500 sf warehouse and distribution facility under construction in Plymouth Township for Bimbo Bakeries, USA. This site has excellent highway accessibility and is right near the intersection of the PA Turnpike, Northeast Extension and Route 476.
Golf Courses and Country Clubs
- Golf courses and country clubs are seeing an unexpected resurgence after 10 years of downtime. This summer, while vacations were put on hold, people started spending more time at home. This left them looking for opportunities to get outside, to be active and social, while also being safe. Many turned to golf and swimming pools.
- As a result, clubs are packed and membership is up and so are the number of projects. Clubs are taking on clubhouse renovations, course restoration, and amenities upgrade projects to engage new and existing members.
- This summer, we wrapped up construction on clubhouse and pool improvements at Waynesborough Country Club.
- The residential market has been HOT most of the summer.
- The majority of our current projects are multifamily apartments and townhomes, but we’re also seeing some interest in developing single-family communities. The toughest part for this market is finding land.
- Check out our new podcast where host Chelsea Bellay, talks to Nave Newell’s president, Greg Newell about the past, present, and future of the residential housing market.
Small Retail – Quick Service Restaurants, Auto Parts Stores, Health/Urgent Care Centers
- When it comes to commercial pad sites, many restaurants and convenience stores are changing the way they serve customers, resulting in parking and circulation changes and other site improvements. I’m sure you’ve heard about Wawa’s proposed drive-thru only location.
- We also anticipate smaller and more flexible neighborhood health/urgent care centers like Patient First as healthcare continues to evolve.
- We’re also seeing a big push for auto parts stores like Auto Zone, and currently have several progressing through the land development process.
UNCERTAIN MARKET SECTORS
- Office is a big unknown for now. Driving through a business park or office corridor, it’s tough to ignore the empty parking lots. What does the future hold? Will companies reduce their square footage to save money or will they look for more space to safely socially distance employees when they return? Will work from home policies stick or will companies want to see employees back in the office?
- There seems to be opportunity for the single-story, private entrance office buildings. One project where we helped with entrance improvements and a patio is now up for sale and will test the market, 211 S. Gulph Road in King of Prussia.
Campus and Education
- Campus and education projects have been hit or miss. With a lot of uncertainty surrounding the return to campus, many higher education organizations are putting projects on hold to re-evaluate how they are using their campus.
- For schools without students on campus, this time is an opportunity to undertake planning and feasibility studies, or perform deferred maintenance, and other activities.
THE LASTING EFFECTS
Zoning and Redevelopment
Often times, we need to go through tough times to bring about change. What will be the lasting effects of COVID on real estate development? Will municipalities need to change their zoning to account for the impact it has had on our day-to-day life? As planners and civil engineers, we look forward to the opportunity to work with officials, other professionals, and the community as we all adjust to our “new normal.” More to come…