Sudler Cos. has developed primarily in New Jersey for the past century. But a new generation at the family company believes other markets — namely Central and West Florida — deserve attention, too.
Sudler Cos. spent its first century in business focused on projects in and around its home base of Chatham, New Jersey.
But when brothers Brian and Daniel Sudler joined the company in 2018 and 2019, respectively, as the fourth generation of the family led business, the firm decided the time had come to branch out.
Its first move away from New Jersey occurred at the start of 2020, when the company drilled down into a market it targeted for bulk distribution development: The Interstate 4 corridor, bounded by Tampa and Orlando.
“We’re generational investors, so there’s no return threshold that we have to hit,” says Dan Sudler, a company principal. “We decided we were going to find markets that we really liked and wanted to be in.”
Drawn by population growth, Sudler’s first project in the region is a 233-acre tract in Plant City the company acquired for roughly $17 million from affiliates of investor Martin Bezdek, property records show.
“We reached terms fairly quickly and they followed through on everything they said they would do,” says Bezdek. “I wish every real estate transaction would go as smoothly.”
Southern Oaks Business Park, as Sudler’s development has come to be known, is slated to contain five buildings in all totaling 2.1 million square feet.
The first project there, a 727,000-square-foot, cross-docked building being developed on a speculative basis, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
“The more layers we peeled back on the property, the better it looked to us,” Sudler says. “Having 20 million people within five hours makes it a great distribution site.”
Sudler’s first building also hopes to differentiate itself by having a 40-foot-clear ceiling height — the standard today is 36-foot-clear — advanced fire suppression systems and an abundant 143 dock doors. The building also will feature more than 400 automobile parking spaces and 165 trailer stalls.
Fortuitously, the site is also just minutes away from Lakeland Linder International Airport, where online shopping giant Amazon recently completed a $100 million air freight distribution hub.
It’s also near several recent industrial real estate projects occupied by Home Depot, City Furniture, Ace Hardware and DHL.
“Their intent is to build a 100-year building,” says John Heald, a senior vice president with CBRE Group in Tampa, who together with the firm’s Kris Courier and Rian Smith is leasing Southern Oaks.
“Every time during the design process, when something would come up that would cost a little more, Sudler would say ‘go ahead and spend the money, because it’ll make it a better building. That’s how they think.”
If all goes well, Sudler will complete Southern Oaks sometime in 2024 and move on to its next regional endeavor.
“The market is good today, but we know it’s going to be great 20 years from now,” Sudler says.
The company’s “Southern expansion” isn’t limited to Central Florida, however.
In addition, Sudler also in 2020 was selected to develop a 172-acre business park in Greenville County, South Carolina — the area’s first new business hub in two decades.
At build out, Fox Hill Business Park will contain as much as 2.5 million square feet of industrial, manufacturing and distribution space.
Mark Farris, the president and CEO of the Greenville Area Development Corp., an economic development agency, calls Sudler “the optimal partner to develop Greenville County’s new business park.”
In April, Sudler completed its first building at Fox Hill, a speculative 206,140-square-foot warehouse.
But while much of Sudler’s focus has been on ground-up development, the company also has been acquiring existing properties to bolster its regional portfolio.
In June, the company spent $11.55 million to buy a pair of industrial buildings on Benjamin Road, near the Tampa International Airport.
Sudler says the company knew going in to the deal that it was one that would require some patience and planning.
“It’s a current value-add situation and a future redevelopment play,” Sudler says of the Tampa buildings. “We knew they were mostly vacant but we also believe they’ll lease up quickly. It’s an increasingly strong market, and airport rents are only going to go one way, in my opinion.”
Equally intriguing, Sudler has the ability to develop roughly 150,000 square feet of space adjacent to the two buildings, which total 120,000 square feet. There, too, CBRE has been tapped to market the space.
Though its push South breaks new ground for the company, Sudler has undergone transformation before.
The company was created in 1907 by Hyman Sudler — Dan’s great-grandfather — as a general contractor that specialized in restaurants.
Three decades later, the company pivoted into building industrial space for a then-nascent retailer, Montgomery Ward & Co.
Sudler would go on to build warehouse space for the department store chain in 14 states before developing properties for its own account primarily in New Jersey, according to its website. It still owns a few of the properties in California, Maryland and elsewhere.
Today, Sudler is run by Peter Sudler, Dan and Brian’s father, who is chairman and CEO. The brothers’ mother, Eileen, is the company’s general counsel.
In all, Sudler has developed roughly 20 million square feet — about half of which it currently owns.
Despite all the geographic changes, the Sudler brothers intend to continue at least one family tradition: Landbanking.
Sudler today controls about 300 acres of developable land, its website states.
“Our family roots have been in buying land and banking it for future development, and then letting it grow organically,” Sudler says. “We think that gives us an edge.”
Heald says the company’s long-term approach to business and markets is another advantage.
“Dan and Brian bring fresh eyes to where and how their family company is going to grow,” says Heald, who met Dan Sudler while the two were in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2009, they deployed together to Iraq. “And they’re very selective about where they want to grow.
“My expectation is that at Southern Oaks, someday his kids will own that property, and hopefully his kids’ kids,” Heald adds. “They approach the building process for the long haul.”
Sudler says the company is actively looking for a third business park site throughout the Southeast, too.
“If an opportunity presents itself tomorrow, we’ll be ready,” he says. “If it comes three or four years from now, we’ll be ready then, too. The key is we want to build projects to stay competitive for a long time.”