About a decade ago, a business park south of the DuPage Airport had just one operating business: a sales and repair office for a window company.
Today, the DuPage Business Center is almost fully built out, home to an Amazon distribution center that helped complete a remarkable turnaround at the massive campus in West Chicago.
Last summer, Amazon opened a “last mile” facility that handles packages for the last leg of delivery to customers. The 145,000-square-foot distribution hub brought about 250 employees, plus another 300 drivers, to the sprawling site.
Amazon has contributed to “major growth” at the 800-acre business park south of Roosevelt Road, West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda said during his State of the City address this week. And with strong demand for industrial space, more developments are still to come, capitalizing on the park’s infrastructure and access to interstate highways, city leaders say.
“It is ready to build, and I think that makes it very attractive for businesses or for developers,” said Tom Dabareiner, the city’s community development director. “They don’t have to worry about utilities. They don’t have to worry about roads.”
More than 230 acres of the business park have been developed in recent years, said Mark Doles, the executive director of the DuPage Airport Authority, the owner of the campus.
The airport authority is now in negotiations with a developer for one of the final pieces of developable land.
“There’s limited land available out in central and western DuPage County, and we’re filling that niche right now,” Doles said.
Countywide, the industrial vacancy rate dropped from 5.8% to 5.3% in the final quarter of 2020, according to a report from the economic development alliance Choose DuPage.
“The properties to the east in other communities have filled up, so we’re basically the next step in the development cycle,” Dabareiner said.
Over the last several years, Norix Group, Inc., a commercial furniture company opened a 205,563-square-foot headquarters, and Suncast Corp, a manufacturer of snow tools and outdoor storage sheds, moved into a 783,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility at the park.
Midwest Industrial Funds, an Oak Brook-based developer, has built two facilities, one of which is now occupied by a storage company and Skyjack, a supplier of material handling equipment.
Midwest also is looking to build another facility on a 23-acre property directly on Roosevelt Road.
While there’s been some manufacturing interest, much of the focus is on warehousing, Dabareiner said.
That’s a shift from when the campus officially launched in 2006 with a different name — the DuPage National Technology Park — and the hope that it would fill up with tech companies. But the park failed to take off as expected and remained largely vacant for years.
“Everything changed dramatically back around 2017,” Doles said.
The airport formed a partnership with the county, West Chicago and NAI Hiffman, the commercial real estate firm marketing the business center. Tax incentives were offered to developers, and officials expanded the list of potential uses for parcels.
Ever since, the park “has flourished,” and it’s almost at capacity, Doles said.