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Robinson Weeks Launching New $150M Fund Driven By E-Commerce Industrial

Call it Robinson Weeks 3.0. This time with $50M in equity.

Robinson Weeks Partners CEO Forrest Robinson and President David Welch

Robinson Weeks Partners — led by two veteran industrial players — has launched a $50M industrial opportunity fund that will mainly target build-to-suit projects and speculative development opportunities throughout the U.S. For newly minted President David Welch, Amazon is partly the reason for the fund.

“We see this e-commerce effect is really driving demand this development cycle,” Welch said.

Robinson Weeks has been around since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, raising $150M for its first fund partially made up of institutional capital to develop and invest in more than 10M SF of industrial across the country. And the firm is the master developer for the Fort Gillem redevelopment project — called Gillem Logistics Center — where The Kroger Co. developed its 1.2M SF regional distribution center.

But Robinson Weeks' second fund comes with some leadership changes. While Ray Weeks — one of the largest build-to-suit developers during the heydays of the 1980s — will remain chairman of the firm, and Forrest Robinson will continue as CEO, Welch has been elevated to president and John Jennings has been named CFO. The firm also grabbed John Gaskin, who spent much of his career at Duke Realty, for business development.

With leverage, the fund could top $150M, Robinson said. The fund is slated to launch in July.

While the expansion of the industrial market has been in full gear for the better part of five years, both Welch and Robinson said the cycle has a way to go.

“We think there's still several years worth of runway,” Robinson said, noting that e-commerce only makes up 7% of all retail sales, but is growing, which will feed further demand for distribution points.

Supply and demand dynamics in Atlanta, per JLL research

A recent JLL report echoes those sentiments. While 2M SF broke ground in Metro Atlanta this past quarter, half of the space has already been claimed by companies. And absorption overall continues at a healthy clip, with nearly 6M SF leased by companies as of the first quarter, according to JLL. The real activity — with nearly 30M SF in requirements floating around the market — has been in the big-box space. Of the deals in the market, according to JLL, the average size is 443K SF.

Robinson Weeks' initial pipeline of build-to-suits — half of which are for e-commerce activity — are outside the Atlanta area, Robinson said. While the two declined to disclose specifics, initial projects could launch in Dallas, San Antonio and Charleston.

Robinson Weeks will continue to act as master developer of the Fort Gillem project, which is transforming a former U.S. Army base into an industrial campus, but that will remain outside the purview of the new fund.