Home-improvement giant Lowe’s and online home-goods retailer Wayfair will occupy two massive logistics buildings under construction in East Hartford, various sources have confirmed to the Hartford Business Journal.

Massachusetts-based National Development bought 300 acres at the former Rentschler Field airport site from Raytheon Technologies in a $78.47-million deal sealed in January.

National Development spent more than a year working with local officials to design and permit two logistics properties — with a combined 2.5 million square feet — and two, 100,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing buildings.

Wayfair confirmed it’s planning to occupy a 1.2-million-square-foot facility in East Hartford in late 2024. Lowe’s issued a statement confirming it will occupy a 1.3-million-square-foot bulk distribution center by fall 2024.

A formal announcement is expected during a March 6 groundbreaking ceremony at Rentschler Field.

Wayfair said its East Hartford distribution center will help the company scale its fulfillment offerings for suppliers and strengthen the shopping experience for customers in greater New England.

Lowe’s said its new facility is part of a distribution network expansion announced in 2020. The center will provide daily shipments of bulky items, like riding mowers, and replenish more than 119 stores across the Northeast, the company said.

National Development Managing Partner Ed Marsteiner confirmed the two companies have signed long-term leases at the Rentschler Field site. The logistics buildings are part of the project’s up to $300-million first phase.

National Development is still wooing high-tech or specialty manufacturing tenants for the project’s second phase, Marsteiner said.

Construction of those smaller, but more complex properties could cost between $40 million to $50 million, he estimated.

Economic Catalyst:

Site work on the logistics properties began shortly after National Development’s land purchase with construction of both buildings expected to be completed in summer 2024, Marsteiner said.

National Development typically uses equity to finance a third of its project costs and borrows to cover the rest. Santander Bank and M&T Bank are helping finance the East Hartford project, he said.

“Those relationships were extremely helpful and important in getting this project to move forward because the capital markets essentially shut down in the latter part of 2022,” Marsteiner said. “So, we are very grateful to these groups for stepping up and helping get this project financed.”

Missouri-based ARCO National Construction was hired to build out the first-phase logistics properties. Foundations will be poured in March, with vertical construction beginning two to three months later, Marsteiner said.

National Development predicts the first phase of construction will support up to 400 construction jobs, while Wayfair and Lowe’s will eventually employ more than 1,000 people.

“This project from day one has been a catalyst for economic development and really the rebuilding of an ecosystem out here for the town of East Hartford,” Marsteiner said. “You need an employment center to encourage residential development, to support amenities.”

Marsteiner praised East Hartford Mayor Michael Walsh, along with local and state officials who welcomed the project. The trust created during the planning process has primed National Development to seek additional projects in the area, he said.

“It’s been a great experience for us down here,” Marsteiner said. “Once you establish that trust, it sets the stage for it being easier to accomplish future projects. So, our goal would be to find opportunities certainly in East Hartford … and the surrounding area.”

By Michael Puffer
Hartford Business Journal

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