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A complex trend
Business center hints of more to come along Ga. 400
Construct 4 es
Joseph K. McGorrey goes over the plans Tuesday for the Shiloh Business Center inside a construction trailer at the site. - photo by Emily Saunders

Three 80,000 square-foot buildings will open over the next several months in the Shiloh 400 Business Center, part of what officials hope will become an office park explosion in Forsyth County.

The population density along the Ga. 400 corridor was among the reasons Crescent Resources selected the site off McFarland Road in south Forsyth.

The Shiloh 400 business park will total 240,000 square feet on about 18 acres. The buildings will have truck courts with 24-foot clearance to provide distribution ease.

Frank Norton Jr., president of Gainesville-based real estate firm the Norton Agency, said the trend over the past decade is leading up to an industrial park boom.

"What we're finding is that more and more executives have moved out [of Atlanta] over the last 10 years," said Norton, who authors an annual economic forecast for northeast Georgia. "Forsyth County is the strongest concentration of executive-level housing in all of metro Atlanta.

"Those executives are now, because of traffic and congestion, moving their businesses closer to their homes."

Joseph K. McGorrey, vice president of development for Crescent, said companies already draw employees from Forsyth, Alpharetta and Roswell, making it a "neat pocket industrial area."

While Forsyth is not a traditional distribution market, it has fared better than some, McGorrey said.

"We've been studying that market for a while," he said. "Occupancies have been a lot higher in those areas than the I-85 ... distribution areas. It's gotten down to about a 5 percent vacancy there in Forsyth. So for us, we thought it was time to build."

McGorrey said there is room in each one-story building for three businesses, though ideally one company would occupy each building.

The goal, he said is to attract light industrial businesses, along the lines of a company like Southern Staircase.

"They're doing their local distribution, local delivery and they're doing light manufacturing," he said. "[We'd like to attract] businesses that have a light distribution quotient, perhaps about a 20 percent office finish. They need either a parts warehouse or some other distribution capability."

Construction began in February, about a month before the March 25 groundbreaking. Even before that, however, company officials had been working with possible tenants.

With many retail centers sitting vacant, building before leasing is "a risk," McGorrey said.

"But when you build speculatively, you're always going to have that," he said. "But on the other hand, there are a number of tenants that won't move into something unless it's already built.

"In Atlanta, for some reason ... tenants want to touch it and feel it."

Charlotte, N.C.-based Crescent was established in 1969 and covers the Southeast. It has been active in the Atlanta market since 1995, working on projects such as Satellite Place in Gwinnett County and Corporate Centre on Windward Parkway. The firm is starting construction on a 20-story office building in Buckhead.

McGorrey said the company will track Shiloh 400 park's success in Forsyth. If companies show interest, he said he would like to pursue similar projects in the county.

"I live in the area and I feel very strongly about it," he said.

So does Norton, who thinks Crescent won't be the only developer eyeing the Ga. 400 area.

"With the age of the Internet, you can basically house your business anywhere and connect to the rest of the world," he said.

"We expect over the next 10 to 20 years, we're going to have more of the corporate Atlanta business move more up the Ga. 400 corridor into Forsyth and eventually domino into Dawson and Lumpkin [counties]."