Fairfield Commerce Park to expand with fifth building

With the success of Fairfield Commerce Park, its developer plans to expand.

And Fairfield City Council agreed to a tax incentive to help make the project more feasible given the challenges of the land.

The Council agreed to a second Community Reinvestment Area, or CRA, tax incentive for Amborse Property Group as the company purchased 27 acres across the street at 9391 Seward Road, and the company intends to build a 204,000-square-foot speculative building.

But the new site “is significantly challenged due to its topography,” said Fairfield Economic Development Manager Nathaniel Kaelin. “There is actually a 60-foot change in slope from the south end to the north end, which requires some significant grading and limits how large of a building on the property.”

The city will mirror the current CRA deal with the Fairfield Commerce Park that’s nearly completed. Three of the four planned buildings are completed and fully leased, and the fourth building is under construction and is two-thirds leased, according to Eric Seamands, Ambrose Property development manager. He said there is interest in companies leasing the final third, or 97,470 square feet, of the fourth building.

Like the original CRA, the new deal will abate 75% of the property tax for 10 years, with additional agreements that would require Ambrose to make up lost property tax revenues to Fairfield City Schools and Butler Tech. This new CRA agreement also has a performance-based threshold, similar to the original, given the speculative nature of the project.

The fifth building is anticipated to cost $19.1 million to construct, and Ambrose estimates more than 104 employees with at least a $3.89 million payroll, according to the agreement. A building revenue target has been established and a base level of income tax must be received. Should the thresholds not be met in any given year during the life of the agreement, Ambrose Property can either make up the difference or forgo the abatement for that year.

Fairfield Commerce Park represents nearly 1.4 million square feet of new light manufacturing and e-commerce space in the city since construction started in 2020 on the former Liberty Mutual site. A few hundred new jobs have been added in the city because of this business park project. Tenants in the first three buildings include Hilco Vision, BakeMark, National Distribution, Graybar, and Hit Promotional.

Ambrose purchased the old insurance office building plus the adjacent 137 acres in December 2019, and sold that building to Koch Foods for $8.4 million, according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office. Koch Foods General Manager Brian Reisen said it will be white-boxed for now, but eventually, it will become a warehouse for dry and frozen products.

This fifth Ambrose building would be the smallest of the five buildings. The three constructed and one under construction range from 230,000 square feet to 615,000 square feet. Site work is expected to begin later this year, and construction would start this spring and wrap up by November 2023.

Seamands said the market for speculative building projects is hot, despite some uncertainty within the economy. He anticipates interest sparking during the construction process.

“There aren’t a lot of sites left for these types of buildings,” he said. “We feel like this one, although it has its challenges from a development standpoint, will continue to be a success in this portfolio of projects.”

Seamands said Ambrose is looking at various communities around the state, including a project in West Jefferson, which is just west of Columbus. He said they also are working with the city to identify additional sites for possible projects.

Kaelin said Fairfield Commerce Park has been “a very high-quality product” and "we’re so happy the project’s been so successful and have been able to quickly revitalize the Liberty Mutual site.”

“As we talk to other developers, many of them look at Fairfield Commerce Park as a model,” he said.

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