Ed Lampitt wasn't concerned about hyperbole when he got up to speak last month for the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors' annual market outlook.
It's "the greatest industrial market ever," declared Lampitt, who specializes in industrial real estate for commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
With a steady rise in e-commerce driving demand for new logistics space, strong economic fundamentals and plenty of land still available to develop the giant warehouses the industry wants, St. Louis is coming off one of its strongest years for industrial real estate. And many in the industry locally aren't shedding their bullish optimism in 2018.
"There are no economic indicators that point to the market cooling off, so to speak," said Vince Bajardi, who heads Clayton-based Sansone Group's industrial real estate practice. "There are users that are out there right now that need five, six, 700,000 square feet, and there's only one building available that can accommodate that use."
That's despite a surge in speculative warehouse construction over the last two years in big logistics parks in Edwardsville, Hazelwood and St. Charles County. Some 4 million square feet of industrial space was completed last year, on top of the 6 million square feet delivered in 2016.
Big users have been filling the new space. E-commerce giant Amazon alone has leased well over 1 million square feet in Edwardsville and Hazelwood.
"For the last two or three years we've really been attracting companies that have not been in St. Louis before," said Geoff Orf, senior vice president at commercial real estate firm Colliers' St. Louis office. "And some of the more high profile tenants that have come to town have attracted other companies."
Lampitt's research estimates the region absorbed 5.4 million square feet of industrial space last year and has absorbed more than 2 million square feet a year since 2014.
Going forward, there's about 2 million square feet of industrial space under construction and an additional 3 million or so on the drawing board, Bajardi said.
A 600,000-square-foot speculative warehouse in Edwardsville's Gateway Commerce Center developed by a joint venture that includes Earth City-based TriStar is almost finished. Also in Edwardsville, Fenton-based Kadean Construction is building a 769,000-square-foot light industrial building in the Lakeview Commerce Center for Panattoni Development.