It was something Surprise Economic Development Director Jeanine Jerkovic did not originally anticipate announcing until around 2030.
But by the beginning of April she could announce that the Southwest Railplex — the city’s two-mile industrial zone stretching from Waddell Road south to Peoria Avenue and from Dysart Road west to Litchfield Road — has sold all of its large parcels, defined as 20 acres or more.
After slow growth in the 2010s, punctuated by Japanese plastics firm IRIS opening its 450,000-square-foot North American headquarters in the railplex in 2016, the convergence of several factors inside and outside of the city caused Surprise’s commercial growth timeline to accelerate by at least five years.
Jerkovic said in the past 18 months the area in and around the business park has seen about 3 million square feet of new construction.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of activity in the railplex,” Jerkovic said. “A typical citywide count of new construction in a year before 2020 was 1 million square feet.”
Momentum began, as many things have in this post-pandemic business world, with Amazon. The online retail behemoth opened a 145,491-square-foot “last-mile” delivery station in Surprise’s railplex in early 2021, adding about 300 jobs.
Amazon announced its plans in July 2020 and others looked at this modern industrial district in southwest Surprise.
It all really started around the time that the Amazon last-mile distribution facility started construction.
The largest force multiplier for Surprise — and every city touching the Loop 303 — is far from the railplex, which is not that close to the 303.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and the city of Phoenix signed a development agreement in March 2021 that will bring a $12 billion chip manufacturing center to 1,050 acres north of Loop 303 and just west of Interstate 17. northwest Phoenix.
Surprise, north Peoria, western Glendale and Goodyear are on the route connecting this game-changing plant with Interstate 10 en route to California.
All have felt positive — and nearly immediate — ripple effects.
For example, TSMC supplier Rinchem recently agreed to build a facility in the railplex. The hazmat trucking and warehouse company already has its national campus in Chandler.
“We always believed that our railplex was a West Valley jewel,” Jerkovic said. “We desired to have companies that were rail-served or desired a rail option. They tend to be family-owned and have a highly skilled workforce.”
Surprise was ready to take advantage of this confluence of market forces because of the city’s patience and willingness to wait for the right businesses to want in its industrial zone. In the last year another well-known online marketplace jumped on board.
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Carvana Co. bought 150 acres on the northeast corner of Cactus and Litchfield roads and plans to develop a 200,000-square-foot reconditioning and inspection center.
This purchase created another domino effect, accelerating the process of Surprise filling its larger railplex parcels.
“There have been four speculative developers that have purchased property next to Carvana in less than a year,” Jerkovic said.
Another auto industry name — at least to those working in the industry and car aficionados — just posted a YouTube video April 1 of its soon-to-open warehouse in the railplex.
JBugs, a specialty Volkswagen supplier, is nearly finished with its 80,382-square-foot warehouse building on the southwest corner of Dysart Road and Sweetwater Avenue.
There is still room for smaller projects in the industrial zones. Etico Construction Group will plant a site on a 3.23-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Desert Cove Drive and Solar Canyon Way in the Skyway Business Park section of the railplex.
The Peoria-based company intends to build an 11,088-square-foot office building and a 10,828-square-foot warehouse. The Surprise Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved Etico’s site plan April 7.
“The project will have a gated fence with an eight-foot block wall that will house company vehicles, equipment and inventory materials,” planner Chris Sexton said during the meeting.
When attempting to sell the remaining small parcels in the railplex, Jerkovic said she believes Surprise has several aesthetic advantages.
This industrial zone did not really debut until this century and is mostly full of clean, boxy modern warehouses — and lacking in dilapidated buildings, grime and barbed wire fencing.
“In many other communities, when you think of an industrial park it’s on the edge of town in an area people tend to avoid when they can,” Jerkovic said. “This railplex is pretty close to executive level housing in Marley Park and Copper Canyon Ranch.”
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