Construction under way at facility for Urban Outfitters |

Construction under way at facility for Urban Outfitters

John Seelmeyer

Paul Kinne was just beginning work in a new job as a business development manager with the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada in mid-2010, touching base with contacts from his previous career in real estate development.

Much to his surprise, his contact at Urban Outfitters returned his call within about an hour to ask for his assistance with a major facility proposed for northern Nevada.

Last week, almost exactly a year to the day from that first phone call, the Philadelphia-base retailer formally broke ground on a 462,720-square-foot center at Stead that will provide fulfillment of Internet orders.

The center will employ about 150 full-time people when it opens in 2012, and Kinne recalled last week that the availability of labor was a big question as Urban Outfitters considered a Reno location.

The company had found tight labor supplies when it opened a distribution center in Reno in the days before the recession back when jobless rates commonly ran below 4 percent and it was uneasy about a repetition of that experience with a new facility.

Kinne said staff from the State Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation quickly produced a study of the skill sets available in the much larger body of unemployed workers available in mid-2010 and allayed the company’s concerns.

A second significant hurdle was creation of a development and construction package that would work for Urban Outfitters.

It purchased 38 acres at 12055 Moya Blvd. in the Dermody Properties Silver Lake Business Park, and United Construction of Reno won the contract for the build-to-suit project.

Although the negotiations were complex, John Atwell, the chief operating officer of Dermody Properties, said Urban Outfitters was well-organized and prepared to move quickly.

“It’s a great, professional organization,” he said.

The transaction was brokered by Eric Bennett of CB Richard Ellis in Reno and Rick Chancellor of McDevitt Company in Santa Monica.

The transaction got another push when Gov. Brian Sandoval called David Ziel, chief development officer of Urban Outfitters, to pledge the state government’s help in making the new jobs a reality.

Sandoval said last week that he expects the Urban Outfitters’ decision to launch its Internet fulfillment operation in northern Nevada will help draw other centers.

“This will be a catalyst for more companies,” the governor said.

Even as photos were shot of the ceremonial groundbreaking, heavy machinery from Atlas Contractors of Reno was roaring on the far side of the site, getting it ready for construction.

Michael Russell, chief operating officer of United Construction, said preparation of the pad for a building that will be 520 feet wide and 880 feet long is among the biggest challenges of the project. Atlas, a subcontractor to United Construction, began work on the pad about a month ago.

In fact, the 360,000 cubic yards of dirt to be moved for the project is enough to fill Mackey Stadium 72 feet deep, said Craig Willcut, United Construction’s president and chief executive.

Russell said schedules are tight on the construction project. The building envelope is scheduled for November completion to allow the installation of a highly automated material-handling system as well as a data center and offices by the June opening.

About 160 construction workers will be employed on the project.

Urban Outfitters’ investment in the facility is estimated at $60 million.

Also on the drawing boards is a potential expansion that would increase the size of the facility to 895,360 square feet, creating one of the largest distribution operations in northern Nevada.