Elion Partners plans a sprawling industrial complex with up to 30 million square feet of warehouses along with a master-planned village for truckers and other highway travelers.
The Miami-based real estate investment firm plans to spend the next decade building shops, restaurants and a hotel inside Elion Logistics Park 55, its 2,500-acre “first-mile” hub for shipping and processing facilities in nearly 60 miles southwest of Downtown Chicago in Wilmington, managing partner Shlomo Khoudari told The Real Deal.
The “super-regional” facility would be the first stop for “billions of dollars of merchandise” to be packaged and sorted before it’s sent off to smaller facilities across the Midwest, Khoudari said.
Elion bought the property, then called Ridgeport Logistics Center, in 2016, when it was an assemblage of just over 1,000 acres with a transload building and a warehouse operated by Michelin. The Florida firm paid about $55 million to buy the land from a venture of Ridge Development and PGIM Real Estate, Crain’s reported at the time.
Elion has since more than doubled the size of its property, buying up chunks of neighboring farmland in 51 separate transactions, Khoudari said.
Under its new name, the property now spans about 2,500 acres, nearly four times the size of Midway Airport. It contains about 6.3 million square feet of existing warehouses, including a 1.5 million-square-foot facility Elion completed for General Mills in 2017, according to RE Journals.
Elion hired CBRE as the exclusive leasing agent for the entire park. The brokerage will market an 811,000-square-foot spec facility Elion completed at the park last year. Another 400,000 square feet could be added to the building later.
The campus has about two miles of frontage on Interstate 55 and connects directly with a BNSF rail line.
By its own estimation, Elion will spend $2 billion to complete its vision for the park. Khoudari plans for his company to hold onto the property for “30 to 50 years,” calling it an “evergreen vehicle” for investment.
The company sharpened its plans to build out a trucker-oriented amenity village as a way of helping improve life for drivers, which Khoudari called a “neglected” group with some of the worst health outcomes of any profession. Future facilities on the site could include barber shops, veterinary clinics and dentists.
“We have a full-blown travel plaza, or as I like to call it, a truck hotel,” Khoudari said. “When you’ve delivered a shipment and have some extra time, we’ll cover all your necessities without your ever having to leave the park.”
Elion eventually plans to build an actual hotel on the site, he added. The firm is also in the process of building a 10,000-square-foot police and fire station on the site, to be operated by the city of Wilmington.
The expanded logistics facility will join the tens of millions of square feet of industrial space currently under construction in the region, as developers race to catch up with the e-commerce industry’s insatiable need for more distribution space.
Elion has about $1.5 billion in assets under management across six states, according to its website. The company has been on an acquisition tear in South Florida since last year, when it paid a combined $24 million to buy three separate warehouses in the state.
The firm has also overseen multifamily development, but during the past five years it’s shifted to focus almost exclusively on logistics centers, Khoudari said.
“Industrial may be in vogue now, but we always saw it as an important asset class,” Khoudari said. “We just never imagined how much more important it would get after the Amazon effect.”