An illustration of the planned logistics and technology park at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. (Rendering courtesy of National Development)
Home-improvement giant Lowe's and online home-goods retailer Wayfair will occupy two massive warehouses, totaling 2.5 million sq. ft., already under construction in East Hartford, Conn., various sources confirmed to the Hartford Business Journal (HBJ).
Newton, Mass.-based National Development bought 300 acres at the former Rentschler Field airport property from Raytheon Technologies in a $78.47 million deal sealed in January.
Ground was broken at the building site March 6.
HBJ reported that the developer spent more than a year working with local officials to design and obtain permitting for the two logistics properties and two, 100,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing buildings.
Wayfair confirmed it is planning to occupy a 1.2-million-sq.-ft. facility in the East Hartford business park in late 2024. The retailer told HBJ its new 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 recently issued a statement confirming it will occupy a 1.3-million-sq.-ft. bulk distribution center at the Rentschler Field site by fall 2024. It is the company's latest in a series of distribution network expansions announced since 2020. The warehouse space will make daily shipments of bulky items, like riding mowers, and replenish more than 119 stores across the Northeast, Lowe's 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. The developer is still wooing high-tech or specialty manufacturing tenants for the project's second phase, he told HBJ.
Construction of those smaller, but more complex properties, could cost between $40 million to $50 million, Marsteiner estimated.
Development Could Become Local Economic Catalyst
Site work on the Rentschler Field logistics properties began shortly after National Development's land purchase, he noted, and that the construction of both buildings is expected to be completed in summer 2024.
Missouri-based ARCO National Construction was hired to build the first phase of the development. Foundations will be poured in March, with vertical construction likely beginning in May or June, according to Marsteiner.
National Development predicts the building project's first phase will support up to 400 construction jobs, while the Wayfair and Lowe's facilities 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 explained. "You need an employment center to encourage residential development, to support amenities."
In speaking with HBJ, he praised East Hartford Mayor Michael Walsh, along with local and state officials who welcomed the project, adding that the trust created during the planning process has primed National Development to seek other projects in the area.
"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."
Walsh said recently he had long been confident in the project.
"I was certain of this development in March of 2022," he explained to HBJ. "Not everything that gets sketched out on paper comes true but this one makes sense to me and we welcomed it with open arms."
Originally a military airfield built in 1933, Rentschler Field later became a private corporate airport until its decommissioning in 1999. Shortly afterward, part of the site was used to build the University of Connecticut's football facility, Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. In late 2021, it was announced that the undeveloped remainder of Rentschler Field, was acquired from Raytheon Technologies by National Development.
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