With its plan to turn the former General Electric Appliance Park in Columbia into a warehouse distribution center, the Rouse Co. appears to have one of the prized multiuse commercial properties in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
Rouse's purchase of the park, which is adjacent to the Columbia Gateway office, research and development center, was completed in December. Its conversion to warehouse space is going on now, said Jerry Brock, vice president and senior development director of the Columbia-based development and management company.
The move comes at a time when the vacancy rate among bulk distribution centers in the region is high, about 15 percent. But the park's location midway between Baltimore and Washington, plus its proximity to Columbia Gateway, is expected to give it a competitive edge.
"If anybody can market the space, [the Rouse Co.] can market it," said Joseph Cronyn, senior associate at Legg Mason Realty. "They can do a good job of finding out whatever uses there are for the park will be compatible with Gateway."
Brock would not reveal the purchase price of the warehousing park, which includes about 1,000 acres and three buildings. One building was already used as a warehouse by GE, while the other two involved manufacturing.
Brock said the conversion of the park, which is being tentatively renamed Gateway West, compliments the office and research and development facilities under way at the 600-acre Columbia Gateway project.
Rouse officials report that about 25 percent of the Columbia Gateway project has been developed so far. The entire project is expected to take about a decade.
"Now we can offer anything from warehouse to multilevel office building," Brock said. "We think now we can appeal to the full spectrum of the market place with an ideal location that offers the convenience of Washington and Baltimore."
GE's departure from the park began two years ago. The firm completed the move of its appliance manufacturing plant to Kentucky last year as part of a company consolidation. The remaining GE distribution center is expected to move to Harford County later this year.