By Allan Riorda, SIOR, President/Principal, Lee & Associates | Maryland

Operating within a worldwide pandemic makes everything harder, but when was the last time you tried your hand at leasing a 100% vacant, 1-million-square-foot warehouse located in the middle of a cornfield in Carroll County? That was the challenge and opportunity presented to our Lee & Associates team last year when the owners of 630 Hanover Pike selected us as their exclusive leasing broker. Our team consisted of myself, Ned Brady and John Vanbuskirk, who works is in our Pennsylvania office.

After preparing our marketing package, including the production of a video utilizing aerial and interior footage shot from a drone, we went to work.  We had several important factors in our favor. The building was in excellent condition, both inside and out. The neighboring labor market was extremely favorable. The vacancy rate for similar warehouse product in this category was below nine percent and the ongoing lockdown was creating a boom in the ecommerce sector. The building was lacking trailer storage but fortunately we were able to work with the county for an adjacent 10-acre parcel if needed.

But, in the middle of a cornfield just off a two-lane road? At least it had roadside visibility in its favor.

Factoring in all elements (size, location, velocity of the marketplace), our instincts suggested that we start our tenant search locally, with the hopes of identifying a user in Carroll County with an immediate expansion requirement. This was not a “random” assumption as our preliminary research had already turned up some potential regional targets.

It wasn’t too long before we struck gold. With a facility in nearby Westminster, Penguin Random House was in immediate need of large-scale warehouse space to service its expanding global operations and quickly agree to a full-building lease. They committed to the space the day after the previous tenant vacated.

This was the largest lease transaction completed by our office, one the largest in Maryland and ranked in the top 10 of SIOR transactions worldwide in 2020.