Crews raises the roof with new facility

Jan 4, 2002

Date: Sunday, January 6, 2002, 11:00pm CST

A Memphis-based manufacturer of eye and face protection products is relocating its local warehouse to a new 105,000-square-foot building in Southeast Shelby County that raises the bar on one feature of industrial warehouses: ceiling height.

Crews, Inc., is putting the finishing touches on a building that features a 38-foot clear ceiling heights, making it the tallest clear height of any industrial warehouse in the county, says Jason Crews, owner of Shelby Group Realty which developed the building.

The extra height adds about 40% more storage space to the warehouse area, Crews says.

"I think it's cheaper to go up if you can, instead of going out because of property values," Crews says.

Clear heights in other industrial buildings in Shelby County go as high as 32 feet, but most are closer to 30.

Construction on the building, which is located at the corner of Holmes and Crumpler roads, began in April, Crews says. Linkous Construction Co. is the general contractor for the project, and Pickering Firm, Inc., architects designed the building.

Clear height is measured from the floor of the building to the rafters and determines the height at which the building's tenant can stack its products.

Crews says the former Crews, Inc., building had a clear height of 22 feet, allowing for racks of three levels. That 82,000-square-foot building is located at 5191 Hickory Hill Road. But in the new building, the company can use racks with five levels.

Glen Herald, president of Crews, Inc., says the new building provides the company with some much needed breathing room.

"We ran out of warehouse space," Herald says. "We've been seeing growth of about 8% to 10% a year, and we basicaly outgrew the building."

And Crews says the difference in ceiling height doesn't add much more difficulty in the construction of the building.

"There's a little more construction in the steel columns to make them higher, and there's more concrete in the tilt walls to make them higher," Crews says.

Herald says the company also had to buy new forklifts that would enable workers to reach higher products.

But other industrial developers says it is unlikely the county will start seeing other buildings with that added clear height.

"I've not heard anybody talking about going to those ceiling heights at all," says Michael Mullis, vice president of Memphis-based Farnsworth Investment Co.

Mullis says it's not unheard of to see a 38-foot clear height, but those tenants are typically using fully automated equipment to remove and store products.

"32 feet is about as high as you typically go," Mullis says. "You see some around the country that are going higher than that, but certain things enter into the equation like seismic and fire issues, and insurance companies get nervous the taller you get."

Mullis says in buildings under 100,000 square feet, clear height doesn't matter as much to tenants. Most demand at least 24 feet of stackable height.

"The bigger the box, it seems the higher the ceiling needs to go," Mullis says.

Al Andrews, who heads up the Memphis office of Sacramento, Calif.-based Panattoni, agrees that spec buildings aren't likely to get taller.

"The majority of our standard spec buildings are 32 foot clear," Andrews says. "32 has been kind of the upper end of the range. If a company wants it higher, we could do that on a build-to-suit, but we would build spec buildings higher because the market doesn't seem to demand it. That wouldn't be because of a specialized requirement."

The new Crews, Inc., building features 30,000 square feet of office space and 75,000 square feet of warehouse. The company is relocating 75 employees to the new building this week.

Shelby Group Realty also has two outparcels for sale near the building. The 1.59-acre parcel at Holmes and Crumpler would be ideal for a convenience store, Crews says. The other 1.93-acre site fronts Crumpler and is zoned for industrial use.

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