The side of Port Everglades that most locals see is the one that heralds the start and end of so many vacations – the cruise side. But while the cargo side of the port may lack that excitement, it plays a bigger role in South Floridians’ daily lives.
“One of our advantages is the diversity of our business,” Glenn Wiltshire says. The outgoing acting port director, who was due to step down at the end of June, says much of the port’s work is invisible to most residents – until there’s a problem. “A lot of people don’t realize that the petroleum that gets put in their car – that all came through Port Everglades. The only time it really gets attention is when there is a tropical event and everybody runs to the gas station to fill up their gas tanks.”
Now, the part of the port that’s for petroleum and so many other products is the main benefactor of a major, multi-year infrastructure project. One part of the project that’s nearing completion now – a new, state-of-the-art logistics center.
Built on 16.657 acres, the center is made up of two buildings. The southern building was scheduled to be completed last month while the northern building is slated for a September completion. The buildings will serve multiple purposes with regular and refrigerated warehouses, offices and cross-docking facilities. Part of the center will be a part of the port’s foreign-trade zone.
The center is part of a $1.6 billion infrastructure improvement plan that the port aims to have completed in five years. Other projects include channel deepening and widening, improvements to petroleum slips that will allow ships to dock and offload faster, and a new cruise parking garage. The improvements will also include what port officials are calling the port’s largest-ever infrastructure project, the Southport Turning Notch Extension. They plan to add new cargo berths to lengthen the existing turnaround area by 1,500 feet, from 900 to 2,400. The project will also include the installation of cranes that are the largest available today.
With all that work happening, port leaders considered it important that companies at the port have access to a modern logistics center. The new center replaces facilities that were outdated. “We have four buildings that were built in the ’70s and ’80s,” Wiltshire says. “They are very old; they’re not modern.
“For warehousing, it’s now measured in cubic capacity rather than square feet. It provides a lot more cubic capacity.”
Plans call for the site of the old buildings to be redeveloped into a container yard for the expanded cargo berths.
The port is partnering on the project with CenterPoint Properties, a commercial real estate company that has worked at a number of major ports.
“CenterPoint is a nationally recognized real estate company, so we were really happy to have them working on it,” Wiltshire says. “They’re really well positioned in the marketplace.”
Port officials hope that positioning works when it comes to finding tenants in an interesting time to do business. One building will be home to a longtime port business, International Warehouse Services. The other building is in need of new tenants. For CenterPoint, that tenant search has taken on a new tone in the post-Covid world.
“I would say there’s more of a honed focus on supply chain management,” CenterPoint senior vice president Ronel Borner says. “Whereas pre-Covid we did not design this building to be specifically for food users … we may have before been more optimistic about finding a non-food user. Now we’re finding the focus for some of these food users, they have an enhanced focus on their supply chain, and we’re seeing a more intense interest for them.”
International Warehouse Services has also helped shape the project, Borner says. The first facility was specifically for them; CenterPoint worked with both the business and the port.
“They are expanding their presence at the port,” Borner says. “They have been a longtime port occupier; they were actually a catalyst in making this whole deal happen.”
Any time big projects happen at Port Everglades, one element to work against is space. There’s no new place for the hemmed-in urban port to go, so existing space has to be used creatively.
‘There’s no land outside the port that we can expand onto, so it’s how you make use of the land you’ve got,” Wiltshire says.
That’s a problem CenterPoint is used to dealing with.
“There’s no space in ports anymore,” Borner says. “Ports are struggling to provide the logistics their clients are demanding.” And that’s happening, he says, when clients are demanding that a great deal. Driving down drayage cost – the cost of bringing the goods from port to warehouse or shipping facility – is a major concern for the kinds of companies that want facilities within a port. But that’s not always easy to provide.
“Every port you find is just struggling with space,” Borner says. “How do they increase capacity and how do they spend money to increase capacity and continue with their growth?
“I think Port Everglades is doing everything within their power to increase their capacity. We want to be with ports that want to grow.”