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Viewpoint: Environmental challenges to last-mile distribution and warehouse developments


Atlanta (January 19, 2021) – Traditionally, most warehouses and distribution centers have been developed on vacant “greenfield” properties in suburban and rural areas. These locations have offered companies low-cost options to hold and distribute goods. Because most greenfield sites lack the history of commercial and industrial operations that many urban properties have, environmental issues rarely arise on these properties, and when they do, they tend to relate to wetlands and stream buffers.

However, explosive e-commerce growth, consumer demand for sameday or next-day delivery, and significant population shifts to urban and exurban areas have driven an increased demand for “last-mile” urban warehouse and distribution center developments, particularly in the Atlanta and Savannah areas, where commercial and industrial operations once occurred. These “last-mile” properties are attractive because they allow products to be delivered more quickly to urban and exurban consumers; e-commerce products and goods are now truly just a click away, and same-day and nextday delivery timeframes have become expected by consumers. While last-mile properties are attractive and can be lucrative for real estate developers and investors, they come with new and greater challenges that are not encountered on traditional greenfield projects.

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