Post-industrial Pennsylvania now America's Warehouse

New offices, factories and stores are scarce in this part of the world, but Pennsylvania's biggest landlord is leasing plenty of warehouses. Indeed, if China has taken over the U.S.'s vanished position as "the world's workshop", Pennsylvania's toll-free Interstate belt, on the inland truck route from New York to Washington, now ranks as America's Warehouse, the post-industrial home of places where stuff made somewhere else gets parked until consumers want it.

Almost the only action in Pennsylvania commercial real estate these days is out in the warehouse belt which roughly follows I-78 through its Appalachian valley, 50 miles north to 100 miles west of Philadelphia, from Allentown-Bethlehem, to north of Reading to where I-81 drops down from Hazleton, to the I-83 connection in Harrisburg, and on down the Carlisle-Chambersburg corridor.

That's where the big companies that distribute Chinese and other foreign products into U.S. markets are regrouping, and the grandchildren of miners and steelworkers push pallets and load trucks.  Check, for instance, the latest "industrial space" report from Philadelphia-based national landlord Liberty Property Trust, which in the second quarter leased around 1.3 million square feet of warehouse and "flex" space including:

- 475,000 sq ft for Diversified Distribution Systems Inc. at 95 Kriner Rd., Chambersburg;
- 390,000 sq ft [for] at 8451 Willard Dr., Breiningsville (near Bethlehem);
- 99,000 sq ft for Nexus Distribution Corp., 6350 Hedgewood Dr., Allentown;
- 39,000 sq ft for GHG Logistics, 6390 Hedgewood Dr, Allentown;
- 99,000 sq ft for Packaging Corp. of America, 7620 Centronia Rd., Allentown;
- 91,000 sq ft for Allentech at 6350 Hedgewood Drive, Allentown -- the only manufacturer, as opposed to warehouse distributor, in the bunch.

That's on top of another 1.7 million square feet of warehouses in the Allentown area and in Lewisberry (along I-83 south of Harrisburg) in the first quarter.

America's Warehouse? "You pretty much nailed it," says Liberty spokeswoman Jeanne A. Leonard. Other big U.S. warehouse farms include the former farm fields around New Jersey Turnpike Exit 8A, converted prairie south and west of Chicago, and California's "Inland Empire" northeast of Los Angeles.

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