Subterranean Storage

The ideal place to warehouse food may be under the streets of Kansas City.

The constant temperature also equates into a big utility savings. For example, one Hunt Midwest tenant has reported a $50,000 monthly savings during the winter months compared to heating similar above-ground buildings.

For food companies, this constant temperature also means food and packaging integrity. “Not only is the temperature constant, but the humidity level is maintained at below 55 percent,” says Kraus. “This is great for food and packaging materials.”

Ringer points out that the constant conditions underground also add to the cost savings. “Many times you have to condition the space you store food in, but not so here for many products,” he says. “That translates into inexpensive storage. SubTropolis has a massive on-site freezer available for tenants at a fraction of the cost of above-ground options.”

In addition, being underground means that stored food is completely immune from the elements. “We have a solid rock roof down here,” says Ringer. “That means that there are no water leaks to worry about. Companies can store perishables, dry goods and even freezer goods without having the concern that they may be harmed in storage.”

Foodservice distributor Paris Bros., for instance, found the environment ideal for storing green coffee. The temperature, humidity and complete lack of influence from outside elements created the perfect set of conditions.

“We have customers that find their products have a longer shelf life by being down here,” says Licausi. “That’s a nice appeal.”

Of Space Center’s 6.5 million sq. ft. of developed space, which is shared by light manufacturing, printing operations, record storage, and different types of warehousing, Kraus estimates that about 950,000 sq. ft. of the company’s underground space is dedicated to food warehousing.

Ringer puts Hunt Midwest’s food storage occupancy at around 800,000 sq. ft. of the five million sq. ft. it has available. “We have room for adding another eight million sq. ft.,” he points out. Licausi says that LS’s space is about 80 percent occupied by food companies.

The Original Green Building

All of the developers/leasers of Kansas City’s underground space consider it to have been “green” long before it was trendy. They point to several reasons for this:
• Fewer building materials are needed to construct the buildings, which conserves natural resources;
• Underground buildings do not add to storm-water runoff or light pollution;
• The underground location reduces energy consumption;
• Worker productivity is increased due to the consistent comfortable environment;
• Naturally secure limestone environment is three times stronger than concrete, which protects tenant assets and lowers insurance costs.

“The green factor holds a lot of appeal to potential clients today,” says Ringer. “The structure and floor are already in place, so this space requires few materials and little manpower to put together. That’s a big draw.”

Many companies seeking that green aspect to their operations find that the underground space allows them to do it without adding to their expenses. Rather than outfitting traditional above-ground buildings, tenants enjoy zero energy consumption for heating and minimal for cooling.

The underground space’s central location is also a bonus. Roadways in the underground accommodate 18-wheelers and some facilities have rail spurs that feed directly into them. Numerous intermodal facilities are also close by. Not only do these features allow companies to easily ship product all over the country, but its proximity to so many parts of the country means that less fuel is required to transport products to customers.

If there is any drawback to underground storage, it’s that the ceiling height runs lower than in above-ground counterparts. Still, Ringer says the pros far outweigh the perception that ceiling height is a limitation and that many customers end up expanding their square footage and repeatedly extending their contracts.

“We have tenants that have been here since the ’70s. Once people get down here, they rarely leave. If they do, it’s because they are leaving the market,” says Ringer.

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