Dallas boasts a couple of major intermodal hubs,
and as Teesdale points out, “Almost 100 percent of
what comes into the Union Pacific terminal in South
Dallas comes from Los Angeles/Long Beach, and
about 80 percent of what comes into the Burlington
Northern terminal comes from Los Angles/Long
Beach. The other 20 percent is domestic.”
“I do a lot of build-to-suit financing,” says
Silverstein, “and the majority of that in the past 12
months has been related to industrial. It’s all been
driven by supply chain configuration, which has
tended to be concentrated at ports and inland ports
including the intermodal yards.”
Silverstein has one client that has erected one
million square feet of rail and truck-served space in
Bowling Green, Kentucky, plus acquired 100 acres
near Birmingham, Alabama, to create an intermodal
Silverstein is working with another group that is
building an intermodal hub outside of Kansas City.
“More rail cars go through Kansas City than any
other city,” says Silverstein.
Probably the most well-known rail centers in the
country are concentrated in or near Chicago. Union
Pacific, Burlington Northern, CSX and Canadian
National all of have terminals or joint-venture intermodal yards in the Chicago metroplex.
Massive distribution centers have been con-
structed near these intermodals, says Michael
Piscoran, SIOR, senior vice president of the
Transaction Advisory Group of UGL Equis Corp.
in Chicago. “Wal-Mart, for example, built 4. 25
million square feet of distribution space at the
CenterPoint Intermodal Center near Joliet, Illinois.
Goods are moved from container ships to the
Burlington Northern railway, shipped to Chicago
area, offloaded and taken to the Wal-Mart’s distri-
The Chicago market has slowed down, how-
ever, as Piscoran points out, big companies had
been building ahead of the market. In 2007 and
2008, about four distribution centers of one million
square feet were constructed. Those and other spec
buildings are finally being leased.
“Over the last 12 months, about a half dozen
tenants have back-filled the distribution buildings
because of the intermodal solution here,” Piscoran
Piscoran’s ever-expanding list of recent deals
in and around Chicago’s intermodal hubs include:
SOLO/Sweetheart Cup, 1. 3 million square feet;
Georgia Pacific, 1. 2 million square feet; Target
Stores, 1. 1 million square feet; Pet Smart, 1. 1
million square feet; Duracell Batteries, 1 million
square feet; and Macy’s/Federal Stores, 850,000
In Canada, the Toronto, Ontario, metroplex has
traditionally been a busy rail and intermodal area
for the movement of goods in and out of Canada.
Consumer goods coming into west coast ports are
shipped by rail into Ontario as are big consumer
items assembled in Mexico. Going south to the U.S.
are commodities such as forest goods.
In the 2000s, two manufacturers built rail spe-
cific distribution buildings outside of Toronto,
Whirlpool in Milton and Camco in Brantford.
However, since then rail interest has slackened,
says David Hurst, SIOR, AACI, FRI, MIMA,
president of Hurst Real Estate Services Inc. in
Orangeville, Ontario. “Paper has been one of the
main products shipped by rail for many years, but
usage has been in decline since the development of
The second reason for less rail usage is due to
monopolistic practices. In Canada, two companies
dominate the rail-freight business, Canadian Pacific
and Canadian National. As Hurst points out, a lot of
companies that depend on rail decry the lack of top-
notch service from CN and CP and that rates are not
in line with trucking costs.
Surprisingly, Northern California has been one
of the slowest areas to come back from the recession, at least in regard to intermodal development
“More of the activity is starting in the East,” says
Anspacher. “The least amount of activity in terms of
leasing, subleasing and buying land is on the West
Coast. Except for a handful of companies doing
build-to-suits, it’s still too early for companies to
buy large parcels of land for new warehouses.”
In Northern California, the big intermodal
centers servicing the ports of Oakland and San
Francisco can be found 60 miles inland at Stockton,
where Burlington Northern and Union Pacific
are active. While things may be quiet there now,
Anspacher expects brighter days ahead.
“Rail, with piggy-back services, is going to
become more important in Northern California as
in other parts of the country,” he says. “A large
percentage of containers are now being hauled on
trucks going to the Stockton area from Oakland and
it has caused huge traffic jams. Rail will take care of
that in the future.”
Gabriel Silverstein, SIOR
John Skoglin, SIOR
Chris Teesdale, SIOR