A great deal of River Ridge Commerce Center’s success thus far could be attributed to three local developers.
According to River Ridge executive director Jerry Acy, 665 of the park’s 6,000 acres have been purchased for development, and more than half of those acres belong to three local development groups: Capstone Realty and Crossdock Development, both in Louisville, and Jeffersonville-based America Place.
America Place is the largest landowner, with 140.62 acres and an option to purchase another 10 acres.
Capstone Realty owns about 109 acres.
Crossdock owns less land but has been just as busy. Its 60 acres include space built for prominent firms such as Standard Register Co., Autoneum and Bose Corp.
Each development company has its own style of development, but Acy and River Ridge board chairman J. Mark Robinson say the trio have thus far been the park’s catalysts. And there’s no indication they’re done with River Ridge.
America Place founder Jim Karp has a simple reason for investing in River Ridge: He sees value there.
Karp said the opening of the massive Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center helped validate River Ridge as a key location, because the community had to start paying attention.
He expects attention to only grow as River Ridge expands its infrastructure. America Place actually operates a business park called America Place at River Ridge.
“While I’m not thrilled with competition, the competition is absolutely necessary to enhance the entire park,” he said.
There is a method to Karp’s madness — he puts high priority on green space, public amenities and modern construction that turns people’s heads.
The River Ridge Development Authority “want(s) us to set a different standard for the style of building at River Ridge,” he said.
He compared America Place’s impact to a neighborhood where one homeowner manicures his lawn and prompts his neighbors to follow suit.
“Next thing you know, the whole place looks better,” Karp said.
Currently, America Place has finished two buildings at River Ridge — one leased to Illinois automotive supplier Tenneco Inc. and another that will house an unnamed tenant.
America Place has pledged to invest a total of $100 million at River Ridge, which may expand based on demand.
Company officials envision 1.5 million square feet of usable space there, likely across eight to 10 buildings that range from 150,000 square feet to 400,000 square feet each.
The company is now building its third project — about 200,000 square feet on Salem Road near Trey Street that should be ready this fall.
Karp said what makes River Ridge formidable is scalability. If a company approached him tomorrow and asked for a building the size of Amazon’s one million-square-foot center, for example, he could get going on it right away because the land is available.
He’s impressed by how things have gone at River Ridge thus far.
“I’m impatient, and I like to see things move quicker but intelligently,” he said. But “River Ridge has worked very hard to make sure they are doing the right thing.”
To an extent, it would be fair to say Capstone Realty stumbled upon River Ridge.
About a decade ago, president and CEO Stan Franczek took a meeting as a favor to a friend and came away intrigued by what he heard from the prospect, idX Corp.
He agreed to purchase property at River Ridge and construct a 620,000-square-foot building for iDX, which creates custom casing for retailers.
Capstone’s presence at River Ridge has grown substantially since. The company has completed four buildings and is constructing a fifth to house A&R Logistics, a Louisville-based company that is moving its existing Jeffersonville operations to River Ridge.
The company, which trucks dry goods in bulk, will take about one-third of a 325,000-square-foot building.
The new structure will take Capstone to nearly 2.3 million square feet of space and about nine tenants at River Ridge, Franczek said.
Other tenants include Pegatron Corp., a Taiwanese company that develops computers and consumer electronics; Franklin, Tenn.-based air filter supplier Clarcor Inc.; and Olon Industries Inc., a Canadian company that designs casework components for the cabinet, office furniture, kitchen and bath, store fixture and architectural/hospitality industries.
Some River Ridge investors have built spec buildings, but Franczek likes to sit down with a company and customize a building.
“We see that continuing,” he said.
While the new Ohio River bridges now can be framed as an asset for River Ridge, Franczek said Capstone never used them as a selling point.
“Back 10 years, there was so much bureaucracy, red tape and lawsuits that you were never sure it was going to happen,” he said. “We just see significantly more activity and interest in (River Ridge).”
Crossdock president Lee Wilburn is a man of few words who prefers to let his work speak for him.
But he had a ready answer when asked if there’s a limit to Crossdock’s investments at River Ridge.
“I’m not stopping,” he said. “No, why stop?”
Business has been good there for Wilburn. Recently he attracted both Massachusetts-based electronics manufacturer Bose Corp. and Florida logistics firm Saddle Creek Corp. into a warehouse at 800 Patrol Road.
And he’s building another 315,000-square-foot warehouse — expandable to about 460,000 square feet — for an unnamed pharmaceutical distribution company.
Crossdock has been involved in the development of about 2.8 million square feet of space at River Ridge currently, Wilburn said.
He’s criticized Louisville’s permitting process in the past, saying delays there drive some developers to Indiana because projects move more quickly.
Further, he said, Indiana has a more favorable tax environment, and land prices are typically lower at River Ridge than they are in Louisville or Shepherdsville, which has a handful of large-scale business parks that have attracted the sorts of companies that River Ridge also would like to get.
Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial real estate, government, education and sports business.
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