TOWN OF FLORIDA -- Winstanley Enterprises of Massachusetts has begun marketing a 143-acre site on Route 5S as a shovel-ready "Built to Suit" location to potential tenants looking to lease a not-yet-constructed distribution plant at the site.
Florida Planning Board Chairman Michael Taylor said Winstanley completed the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) process in November, and has received site plan approval to build a 1 million-square-foot warehouse on the now vacant land across the street from the 5S Target Distribution Center's driveway.
Taylor said the plans for the building include 150 loading docks, 701 trailer parking spaces and 244 vehicle parking spaces. An entrance for employees and visitors would be located directly across from the Target Distribution Center — with a separate entrance for tractor trailers farther up Route 5S on the west side of the site.
Winstanley Enterprises first proposed the project in the summer of 2018. Company founder Adam D. Winstanley said the Florida location would be the first site developed by the firm in New York state, but only one of 115 properties with more than 16 million square feet developed by Winstanley. The company's varied tenants include industrial, logistics, laboratory/biotech, retail and multi-family residential.
Taylor said Winstanley explained to the Planning Board that its business model is building distribution centers to the specifications of its tenants and then leasing them the space.
"If there are any changes they have to come back in front of the board," Taylor said. "[Winstanley] will be the owner, and they're seeking tenants there, or they have tenants and they're not willing to share the potential tenants yet. The site plan is for a rectangle building, that they are marketing They've always said they didn't have a tenant yet, but they have potential tenants on the hook."
Winstanley Enterprises' vice president of acquisitions, Brooke Foley, could not be reached for comment Friday. Foley is listed as the contact person for the advertisement of the land the company has posted on its website at winent.com.
If built, the Winstanley distribution center would be the third distribution center on Route 5S, joining Target and Dollar General, each located in the county's Florida Business Park Extension. Also on that road are Hill & Markes, which does some distribution out of its building, and baby-food manufacturer Beech-Nut.
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said Winstanley hasn't closed on its purchase of the land yet, but does have purchase option agreements with the owners of multiple parcels that make up the proposed 143-acre site, the largest of which is the Mead Partners, owned by Town Supervisor Eric Mead and members of his family.
Rose said the Montgomery County Industrial Development Agency is prepared to offer a payment in lieu of taxes agreement to Winstanley if necessary as an incentive to build the distribution plant.
He said the Winstanley property will likely be the last distribution plant built on Route 5S, in part because Montgomery County has run out of large spaces in its business parks.
"The big issue that we have now in going after any kind of large distribution center is we don't have the large green space for those types of projects anymore," he said.
Rose said the county at one time considered purchasing the 143 acres of land, and had plans drawn up to indicate how large a building could be built there, but never bought it.
"The IDA never owned that property," he said.
Taylor said a traffic study was done as part of Winstanley's SEQR application. He said the state Department of Transportation has concluded 5S can handle an additional distribution plant.
Rose said that about 12 years ago road improvements, including a "climbing lane" that allows slower travel for large trucks ascending a steep grade coming out of the city of Amsterdam going west, improved the ability of the road to handle large-vehicle traffic on 5S.
In 2018 other improvements were made to the road, including widening, to accommodate the Dollar General distribution plant.
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said Montgomery County is going to shift the focus of its economic development efforts away from large company employers, in part because the county is in the midst of a labor shortage and because of growing anti-development push back from the community. He said he wants the county to do more to support small businesses, particularly in downtowns, and to seek out new industry clusters.
Rose said Montgomery County is in the process of signing a contract with a company based in Orange County to study which types of businesses the county should try to attract.
"Our focus for that is probably going to be around the Exit 29 location," he said, referring to the former Beech-Nut baby food plant in Canajoharie, currently owned by the county.