New warehousing projects reflect Richmond Marine Terminal’s growth
A raft of multimillion-dollar capital improvements at the Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) is transforming the city’s river port into a magnet for economic development.
Within the last nine months, developers have announced two major warehousing projects capitalizing on proximity to the river terminal: Newport Beach, Calif.-based Panattoni Development Co. is building 1 million square feet of speculative warehouse space on 62 acres near the terminal along Interstate 95.
In addition, Richmond-based Hourigan Development is erecting 1.5 million square feet of high-bay warehouse buildings. Called Deepwater Industrial Park, it will be built on the 110-acre site of the former Alleghany Warehouse Co. near Philip Morris USA’s Richmond Manufacturing Center on Interstate 95. The park is located about two miles from the terminal and four miles south of downtown Richmond. “There’s a lot of spinoff private-sector money going in … that wouldn’t be happening if the port had not been upgrading and able to attract more volume,” says Greater Richmond Partnership President and CEO Barry Matherly.
Joseph Marchetti, president with Hourigan Development, says Deepwater Industrial Park “is a significant stride for economic development and the positioning of Richmond as a trade leader.”
Panattoni plans to open the first phase of its project in August, says the company’s senior development manager, William A. Hudgins. That will include 460,100 square feet of cross-dock warehouse space. At press time Panattoni had not yet signed tenants, but Hudgins says the company has spoken with e-commerce retailers and manufacturing firms about the space.
Besides proximity to Interstate 95, RMT will offer Panattoni’s warehouse tenants a competitive advantage by being able to easily plug into the larger Port of Virginia system, Hudgins says, including marine terminals in Norfolk and Portsmouth and the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal.
The Port of Virginia took over management of the 121-acre river port from city government in 2011. In February 2016, the port signed a 40-year lease for the terminal. The long-term lease led to a series of major investments in the facility.
Two years ago, the Port of Virginia invested $6.2 million to purchase a new, improved harbor crane and 409-foot river cargo barge. In recent months the port used a federal grant to buy a $373,000 specialized heavy-lift forklift as well as a $222,000 central power unit that now allows its river barge to move refrigerated cargo critical to the food and beverage industries. Federal funding also is being used to improve the port’s berth and fendering system (the bumpers that absorb the impact to the berth when a boat is docking).
Moving forward, the Port of Virginia is planning even more improvements at Richmond Marine Terminal. They include the installation of an additional scale and security canopy to allow faster entry for incoming trucks and the addition of a secure “drop lot” that would allow carriers to drop off and pick up cargo containers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Currently, companies are limited to the RMT’s Monday through Friday operating hours of 8 a.m. to 4:10 p.m.)
Adding refrigeration to RMT’s cargo capabilities “enables us to provide a more comprehensive level of barge service to current and potential customers and continue to serve as a catalyst for commerce in the Richmond metro area and beyond,” Virginia Port Authority CEO and Executive Director John F. Reinhart said when the new service was announced in December.
Even though the power unit is a recent addition, there are already some potential food and beverage companies considering locating assets in the Richmond area “that would not be looking here if it wasn’t for that feature on the port,” Matherly says.
The improvements also are reaping measurable dividends in the volume of cargo handled at the terminal. Cargo volumes increased by 45 percent in February 2018 compared with the same period a year ago. So far, the river port is on track for a 16 percent increase in shipping this fiscal year.
“Container numbers are rising, the number of users are increasing, and it’s really amounting [to the] success of Richmond Marine Terminal. … It’s beginning to live up to its vision,” says port spokesman Joe Harris. “It’s basically another inland port.”
As the Port of Virginia moves closer to deepening its channels in Hampton Roads that will bring in bigger ships with increasingly greater cargo loads, it’s possible that the RMT barge will need to increase its sailing schedule from three days a week to four or five days a week in the not far-off future to keep up with the increased business, he says.
“The logic is, the rising tide is going to raise all boats,” Harris adds. “The ripple effect is going to reach all the terminals.”