A rendering of FreezPak’s new 140,000-square-foot freezer warehouse at 1029 Newark Ave. in Elizabeth and Newark — Courtesy: Elberon Development Group/Fidelco Realty Group
By Joshua Burd
Construction is underway on a new 140,000-square-foot freezer warehouse facility that will bring new life to an abandoned industrial site on the border of Elizabeth and Newark.
The developers, Fidelco Realty Group and Elberon Development Group, are constructing the property on Newark Avenue as a build-to-suit for FreezPak Logistics. The facility will provide space for storage and retrieval, repacking, transportation and overseas container plug-in, with completion slated for fall 2021.
“This development is another that validates the growing presence and success of cold storage facilities,” said Dave Gibbons, president of Elizabeth-based Elberon. “We believe this project will help revitalize an area that has been stagnant for many years, and perhaps serve as a catalyst for further redevelopment.”
Located at the corner of Virginia Street, the site had been abandoned since dye and pigment manufacturer Magruder Color moved out of Newark in 2006. Fidelco Chairman Marc E. Berson said the property was well-suited for a new freezer facility, in part because the surging industrial market has made new ground-up construction more attractive in top submarkets such as Newark and Elizabeth.
“We’ve seen people come in that have taken over buildings and committed to Newark, but we haven’t seen new industrial buildings going up in this area,” said Berson, a longtime business leader in the city. “One of the reasons … is that people who owned the buildings wanted too much for the buildings to be able to demolish them and then rebuild, so it was more financially efficient to just retrofit the building in some way and put a tenant in at lower rent.
“As this industrial boom has taken off in the last number of years, we’re seeing prices, land values go up, that the land is worth more without the old building on it than it is with the building on it — because there’s the potential for much higher rents than ever before in the industrial market,” he added. “This is an example of that.”
Berson also noted that cold storage and freezer facilities — while highly specialized and more expensive to build — are in high demand and even more attractive from a rent standpoint.
“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “This is a big business. Freezer warehouses and refrigerated warehouses are a huge business in the industrial world today.”
This facility will be FreezPak’s fifth New Jersey location and will also have the capacity for on-site regulatory inspections, according to a news release. The new structure will deliver 10.5 million cubic feet of space, 18 docks and 30,000 additional pallet positions for the Carteret-based company.
Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage said he hopes the city can grow its position as a hub for cold storage facilities, one that feeds off its existing port infrastructure.
“This (project) is an expansion of the warehouse industry in our city outside the comfort zone of the port in an area that would have otherwise been hard to develop,” Bollwage said. “We worked with the developers on this project for two years and it may never have come to fruition if not for their steadfast work and commitment to our city.”
Newark city officials praised the continued growth of Newark’s industrial sector.
“Newark’s strategic position as a transportation hub combined with our available land for commercial development has made us a center for state-of- the-art warehousing and the jobs it creates,” Mayor Ras Baraka said. “Once again, Fidelco has recognized the opportunity for economic growth that Newark offers and has acted to help us collectively move Newark forward.”
Allison Ladd, Newark’s deputy mayor and director of economic and housing development, added: “Fidelco and FreezPak have made a wise choice for themselves while also strengthening an area where Newark is seeking to accelerate development.”
FreezPak Co-CEO David Saoud said the project would create some 50 new jobs as it expands its import capabilities in the Northeast, adding that the company “looks forward to continuing our work with the great people in Elizabeth and Newark.”
Co-CEO Michael Saoud also noted that the operator is already designing a sixth New Jersey site for 2022 “to further meet the growing needs of the food industry in the state.”