Lauth finalizes purchase of Ford Visteon site, with plans for 2M-square-foot industrial park

Plans for Thunderbird Commerce Center call for up to 2 million square feet of build-to-suit and speculative industrial buildings. (Image courtesy of Lauth Group Inc.)

Carmel-based developer Lauth Group Inc. said Wednesday it has acquired the former Ford Visteon campus on the east side of Indianapolis and is moving ahead with plans for a $175 million, multi-tenant industrial park on the site.

Thunderbird Commerce Center, a joint venture between Lauth and Dallas firm Covington Group Inc., is expected to have 2 million square feet of industrial space at the former 148-acre plant at 6900 English Ave, just west of Shadeland Avenue.

The company did not disclose how much it spent to acquire the site and public records were not yet available because the sale closed Wednesday afternoon.

IBJ first reported in December the project cost was expected to be at least $150 million, based on figures provided to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.—from which the firms received a $4 million tax credit for Thunderbird—but that figure has since been updated to $175 million.

“Revitalizing a former Brownfield site in the heart of Marion County will energize additional development in the surrounding area and bring new jobs to the community,” Mike Jones, president and CEO of Lauth, said in written remarks. “We have a great opportunity to partner with Covington Group to develop ground that has been idle for over a decade, turning it into a driver of economic value for central Indiana and the surrounding neighborhood.” 

The total project could span as many as five buildings with up to 2 million square feet. Two structures are already in the works for Thunderbird: the first, a build-to suit building on 44 acres in the southwest corner of the property, and another 608,000-square-foot warehouse set to be completed by the end of 2023. Work on that site is expected to begin immediately, Lauth officials said.

The 44-acre site will consist of a nearly 400,000-square-foot structure, with room for an 88,000-square-foot expansion. It’s also expected to have 190 trailer spaces, an 18,155-square-foot office and at least 313 dedicated parking spaces for employees.

The 608,000-square-foot speculative warehouse would be on the southeast portion of the property and have at least 600 parking spaces and 70 trailer spaces (not including 146 additional trailer parking spaces that would be shared with another, future building).

The northwest corner of the site is expected to include twin 169,000-square-foot structures with some shared parking, and the northeast portion of the property will either be a freestanding building of 465,000 square feet or an expansion of the building to its south for an eventual build-to-suit user. The latter option would make the total building size on the eastern half of the campus about 1.2 million square feet.

In addition to the incentives from the state, Lauth and Covington are pursuing tax abatement requests for the buildings from the city of Indianapolis. A representative for Lauth said the development has received “preliminary approval” of an abatement for at least one of its buildings.

The site is located in the Brookville Road Industrial Corridor and Irvington Plaza Economic Development Area, which was created in 2019 to encourage developers to revitalize ailing or underdeveloped properties. The site is also located in an Opportunity Zone, which would allow Lauth to realize substantial tax breaks if the firm invests capital gains into the property.

Ford had been looking for a buyer for the Visteon site for nearly a decade, after the company closed its 1.8-million-square-foot hydraulic steering factory there in 2011 and moved toward electronically powered steering columns. Initially, Ford had hoped a new user could take over the existing building, but it agreed to raze the structure after failing to secure interest in the site.

The factory at one time employed more than 2,000 people on the east side, but that number dipped to 900 by 2010.

In 2020, Indianapolis-based Ambrose Property Group announced it was spending about $75 million to redevelop the 93-acre Navistar site just southwest of the Ford property into a new industrial park. The firm received tax breaks from the city for the project.

Real estate brokers Mark Writt and Nikki Leahy of CBRE’s Indianapolis office are marketing the property on behalf of Lauth. American Strucutrepoint Inc. is the engineering and design firm on the development.

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