Much has been written about the pandemic-precipitated problems plaguing real estate’s commercial sector. But with office and retail-oriented real estate feeling the ill effects of COVID-19, there’s one sector that seemingly remains in the pink of health.

That is the commercial real estate industry’s industrial sector, comprised of factories, warehouses, distribution centers, fulfillment centers, data centers and similar real property. JLL
JLL
recently reported e-commerce represents half its U.S. leasing activity, an increase from the 36% number registered prior to the onset of COVID-19.

The firm projects an anticipated $900 billion increase in online sales over the next half decade will translate to need for more than one billion additional square feet of industrial real estate by 2025.

In few places is the metamorphosis more evident than in the Chicago metropolitan area, which is able to leverage its advantage as a central U.S. transportation hub in supplying the factory, warehouse and fulfillment center needs of companies nation- and worldwide. A recent snapshot of the Chicago metro’s industrial market reveals new industrial leasing soared by 56.3 % year-over-year, based on 21.2 million square feet in new leasing activity, according to the latest Cushman-Wakefield report.

Surging demand

“Industrial assets remain largely insulated from the pandemic’s devastating economic toll,” says Robert Smietana, vice chairman and CEO of Chicago-based HSA Commercial Real Estate, which recently inked an enormous lease for its 757,880-square-foot, new construction warehouse project in the southwestern Chicago suburb of Shorewood, Ill., near Joliet.

“In recent months, we’ve seen demand for warehouse space surge as consumers and businesses rely on e-commerce for everyday needs. Supply chains have shifted in response to these broader changes, which have