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Liberty Property Begins Development of Butts County Project


Liberty Property Trust LPT recently announced the ground breaking at Liberty Commerce Center in Butts County, GA. The move comes as part of the company’s effort to leverage on the Butts County's thriving industrial market.

Particularly, the company has made this move for the 840,000-square-foot Building 1 (120 Midway Road), the first of two planned buildings, and expects to deliver it during the fourth quarter of this year. The Class A building is designed to get LEED® and Energy Star certifications.

Notably, Liberty Commerce Center is expected to experience solid demand for space due to its strategic location with fast access to major interstates as well as vicinity to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Particularly, firms looking for warehouse, distribution and light manufacturing space are likely to drive demand for this property.

In fact, the region offers solid scope to Liberty Property for capitalizing on healthy growth of the e-commerce market. The company intends to set up a 240,000-square-foot sister building at 184 Midway Road to conclude the 80-acre complex. The location might be alternatively used for supporting an additional 266 trailer or 1,070 automotive parking spaces.

Notably, the industrial real estate asset category has grabbed attention due to elevated demand, recovering economy and job market, strengthening e-commerce market and a healthy manufacturing environment. This is opening up growth avenues for industrial REITs, including Prologis, Inc. PLD, DCT Industrial Trust DCT, Duke Realty Corporation DRE and Liberty Property.

Particularly, Liberty Property is shifting its focus toward industrial properties due to favorable demand-supply conditions. The company plans to fund investments in industrial assets through proceeds from dispositions of office properties.

The company’s industrial portfolio, spanning 94.2 million square feet of area, enjoyed occupancy of 97.0% at the end of fourth-quarter 2017, marking an expansion of 70 basis points from the prior quarter. Moreover, industrial rents escalated 14.8% on renewal and replacement leases signed during the quarter.

Furthermore, the company plans to dispose its remaining sub-urban office properties in 2018. In numbers, it expects dispositions of at least $600-$800 million this year, with the majority being sub-urban office properties. On the other hand, it is aimed at fortifying its national industrial platform through acquisitions of $400-$600 million of industrial properties in key markets and commence $500-$600 million of development projects as well. These measures are anticipated to help the company achieve a favorable portfolio mix.

Liberty Property currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Over the past month, the stock has appreciated 2.8% and outperformed 1.7% growth registered by the industry it belongs to. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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