Warehouses seek close-in locations to reduce costs, delays of traffic congestion

By David Pendered

Warehouse owners are joining home buyers in seeking close-in locations that can shorten commutes. The trend could increase, given that the state transportation commissioner has said the delivery of goods to homes in metro Atlanta already is, “a challenge.”

Russell McMurry, GDOT commissioner

Russell McMurry

Russell McMurry, commissioner of Georgia Department of Transportation, observed in a presentation to lawmakers last month that traffic congestion in metro Atlanta is a real issue for the logistics industry. Local deliveries suffer as well as flow-through traffic.

“Six-plus million people – there’s a reason freight comes here,” McMurry said.

The situation has reached the point that GDOT planners are working with counterparts with the City of Atlanta to devise ways to mediate truck-related challenges. These challenges are expected to increase, given the population increases forecast by the Atlanta Regional Commission – an additional 2.5 million residents in the 20-county area by 2040.

“How do we move freight, not only when we think about freight on trucks, but once it gets to distribution centers and fulfillment centers and ends up as a package on your doorstep,” McMurry said. “How do these deliveries happen, especially for high rises and multifamily. It is a challenge.”

To respond to this reality, some warehouse owners and operators are seeking alternatives to warehouse districts that now are in distant locations. They’re looking for close-in sites, to avoid high-traffic roadways where labor costs increase as drivers and delivery teams wait in traffic, and idling vehicles burn fuel.

logistics, inland ports

Metro Atlanta is the vortex of an interstate highway system and handles significantly more truck traffic than the national average, where rail transports a greater proportion of goods. Credit: GDOT

The latest example is being built in Tucker – a 164,000-square-foot facility to serve a furniture store.

The owners say the location of the new warehouse will ensure next-day delivery of furniture purchased on the floor of Underpriced Furniture, a Norcross retailer being rebranded as Georgia Furniture Mart.

The alternative was a site in or north of Suwanee, according to co-owner Mike Hall. That wasn’t a good option to serve delivery trucks that are to loaded in the early hours with goods for multiple deliveries, and sent south on I-85 – where they would burn time and fuel on the trip through traffic.

“We held out and held out and held out [for a close-in location], and this property became available,” founder and co-owner Mike Hall said. “I-285 will be slow for our deliveries, but once they’re on a northbound leg, they’re home free.”

The warehouse measures 164,000 square feet. That size will meet the demands of the existing shop, and a new retail shop that’s to open at a site to be determined in Cumming, Kennesaw or Jonesboro, Hall said. The whole idea is to avoid as much gridlock as possible around warehouse centers.

Not all warehouses are making a stampede for inside-the-Perimeter locations. Some are so large they need both the green field space for development and the access best offered by an interstate highway.

Traffic congestion, I-285

Traffic congestion along metro Atlanta’s freeways is prompting some smaller warehouses to seek sites inside or close to I-285, to reduce the time delivery trucks could be delayed on highways. Credit: David Pendered

That’s the case with Variety Wholesalers, which took 1.9 million square feet in Newnan; Kimberly Clark, which took 1.6 million square feet in McDonough; and General Mills, with 1.5 million square feet in Social Circle.

Metro Atlanta drivers may wish trucks serving these locales would stay far outside the city. Evidently, McMurry has been hearing conversations about building a bypass highway outside I-285. The commissioner dismissed the idea, observing:

  • “Can’t we just build a bypass around Atlanta to get all these trucks around Atlanta? The truth is, the trucks are coming to Atlanta, where we’re feeding the population.”

Such a road proposal was named the Outer Loop some 20 years ago. Then Gov. Roy Barnes’ support for the project contributed to his defeat when seeking a second term.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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