Commerce Corp. plans $10 million headquarters

September 20, 1994|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,Sun Staff Writer

Commerce Corp., the East Coast's largest lawn and garden supply company, has signed a letter of intent for a new $10 million headquarters and distribution center in an Anne Arundel County industrial park.

Construction on the 273,000-square-foot project in the Brandon Woods Industrial Park, in the Solley section of the county, is scheduled to begin next month. The shift will affect roughly 200 Commerce employees, now located in the county's Linthicum Heights area facility.

The commitment with the Svatos Co. to develop the new headquarters ends a four-month search by the firm, brought on by tremendous growth in its business. Commerce, a supplier to retailers such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kmart Corp., generates roughly $100 million in annual revenue.

"This new building will take care of our needs, provide us with proper access and gives us the ability to expand," said Commerce President Richard Lessans. "The nature of our business means we can only move in the second half of the year. With that window, we knew we had to move quickly or be into 1996, and we couldn't wait that long because we're just completely out of space."

Its new headquarters, on a 23-acre tract Svatos purchased four years ago for $2 million, has the potential to expand to 465,000 square feet.

The Brandon Woods transaction, which was agreed upon Sept. 16, also represents one of the area's largest build-to-suit projects in the Baltimore area thus far this year, along with a $37 million Time Warner Inc. distribution center under construction in White Marsh and a $25 million headquarters for Goldwell Cosmetics (USA) Inc., under way in Linthicum in Anne Arundel County.

Mr. Lessans said Commerce selected Svatos' Brandon Woods property for its location and because it has already received necessary county approvals and permits, a process which ordinarily takes months.

Joseph G. Svatos, the firm's president, said the deal "also shows an interest in Marley Neck peninsula submarket, which had been shot down by the recession."

Prior to selecting Brandon Woods, Commerce and representatives from MacKenzie/O'Conor, Piper & Flynn considered more than two dozen potential sites in the metropolitan area.

"Their time schedule put constraints on various sites and developers," said Robert J. Aumiller, a MacKenzie/O'Conor, Piper & Flynn executive vice president who, along with Senior Vice President Timothy Hearn and sales adviser William Imperato, represented Commerce.

Svatos declined to identify a financing source for the project.

Commerce has been operating from two buildings it owns in Linthicum Heights totaling 187,000 square feet since 1976, and last year leased an additional 100,000 square feet.

The firm also maintains distribution centers in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Commerce intends to put its 700 Evelyn Ave. facility up for sale beginning in November 1995, upon completion of the Brandon Woods project.

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