Wide open spaces

When Tire Rack moved into a new 310,000-square-foot warehouse at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, it left vacant about 194,000 square feet at its former home in Sparks. When ACH Foam moved to TRIC, it left behind 116,000 square feet also in Sparks. And those two aren't alone in leaving Sparks as the city's older industrial areas are hard-hit by relocations to the shiny new industrial spaces at TRIC, Fernley, Stead and Spanish Springs. In fact, an analysis by the commercial real estate firm NAI Alliance finds the amount of occupied industrial space in Sparks last year fell by 1 million square feet enough space to house the Meadowood Mall.

And industrial vacancies in Sparks are a big issue because the city is home to about 37 percent of the industrial space in the region.

City officials and real estate brokers voice confidence, however, that the space will be absorbed, either by new tenants for existing facilities or Older buildings can't match the 30- and 32-foot ceilings available in many new distribution centers heights that allow storage of far more merchandise per square foot. Instead, heights of 18 and 24 feet are common in existing buildings.

And the older buildings generally don't have either the fire-protection systems or truck staging areas provided by new distribution centers.

But even though the buildings don't work for high-volume warehousing operations any more, they still work for companies that don't need a large or new space.

"We're seeing a lot of activity in those older spaces," says Ken Stark, owner of Stark & Associates Commercial Real Estate/TCN Worldwide in Reno.

Along with companies new to the area who want mid-sized spaces, Stark says some of the recently vacated space has been leased by neighboring companies that need to expand.

The buildings in the industrial core, he says, also provide proximity to suppliers and to workers that is important to some potential tenants.

Converting former distribution space into other industrial uses such as manufacturing, however, sometimes is challenging, says Dan Oster, an industrial broker with NAI Alliance.

A big issue, he says, is employee parking. Distribution centers often weren't required to develop much employee parking because they typically don't have a lot of workers in comparison to their size. But manufacturing companies, which typically have more workers in the same amount of space, are required to provide more parking.

That problem can be solved with creative thinking, says Tom Burrous, who oversees economic development for the Sparks city government.

Manufacturing employers, he says, might provide bus passes or schedule workers on staggered shifts. Others have looked at development of off-site parking facilities.

The city government, Burrous says, has been working closely with real estate executives to smooth the transition of older distribution centers into new uses.

"When one door closes, another door opens," he says. "This provides an opportunity for some new businesses to come to Sparks."

One option that's been much-talked-about redeveloping older properties and breaking them down into smaller spaces for service-ori


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