The Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA) and Bioveld Canada hope to capitalize on the region’s tight industrial real estate leasing market by adding up to 500,000 square feet at the sprawling Thorold Multimodal Hub, Bioveld Complex.
“We have ways of transloading, we have warehouse storage, we have ship repair and maintenance, and on the original site we have a lot of bulk handling,” said Ian Hamilton, CEO of the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority.
The Thorold Multimodal Hub, Bioveld Complex, sits alongside the Welland Canal and is zoned for heavy industrial uses. It currently accommodates units ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 square feet, includes over 100 acres of exterior space and has an on-site water filtration plant.
The former automotive plant sits on 170 acres and offers multimodal services, plus greenfield lands for redevelopment and new construction. Its facilities have access to CN's rail network via a local railway operator.
HOPA partnered with Bioveld Canada subsidiary BMI Group in its latest acquisition.
HOPA and Bioveld relationship
HOPA is responsible for marketing and leasing the property, and integrating users into the multimodal network. It also offers industrial owners property management resources and expertise in marine and port-related facilities.
Bioveld owns the property and is actively redeveloping and preparing the facilities for modern uses.
“Between the property we owned and Bioveld’s site, we put together a transportation hub that’s multimodal and that would attract industry by leveraging rail, marine and proximity to truck,” Hamilton said. “We’re probably two years ahead of schedule for what we planned, with a dozen tenants on the site.
"We fast approached the realization that the idea had real traction and expanding it would make sense.”
The hub’s proximity to both the Greater Toronto Area and United States makes it especially attractive to industry, Hamilton noted.
He said if the U.S. states bordering the Great Lakes, plus Ontario and Quebec, were a single economy, it would be the world’s third-largest.
Ontario's Greater Golden Horseshoe
As part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Niagara region was identified in the 18-year-old Places to Grow Act (provincial legislation mandating growth hubs around Ontario) because it’s well-positioned for a population boom.
In tandem with e-commerce’s rapid ascension, establishing an elaborate delivery system for the region is part and parcel of such growth.
“It’s certainly why we chose to partner with Bioveld,” Hamilton said. “The success we have had on existing assets hit home; there was this underlying demand and the Niagara region is so well-positioned for growth to attract modern industry.
"Those indications are why we drove forward with this expansion.”
In leveraging access to a marine property along Lake Ontario, trucking routes and CN-connected rail tracks, the hub handles about $4 billion worth of cargo per year.
That figure will grow as the transportation hub is bolstered by the additions of more industry.
Features of the Thorold Multimodal Hub
All of the site’s buildings have clear heights of 30 to 40 feet, and with the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Association as a partner, HOPA is anticipating its newest addition will begin filling up as early as the first quarter of 2023.
The Thorold Multimodal Hub comprises three distinct properties, offering over 1 million square feet of indoor space – including about 700,000 square feet at the Davis Road site and about 450,000 square feet at the new Hayes Road site.
The third space is located to the north of the other two and primarily handles bulk materials.
Overall, the three sites cover 400 acres of indoor/outdoor space.
HOPA is currently looking to lease 350,000 square feet of indoor space at the Davis Road site (a former paper mill) and all of the indoor space at the new Hayes Road site. This is in addition to outdoor development space/acreage at both sites.
Hamilton explained a major draw for tenants is the ability to customize the types of spaces they want, which the site operators accommodate to the best of their abilities.
Citing another HOPA multimodal property in the City of Hamilton — where over 100 tenants with diverse needs are splayed across 25 acres — he said selling solutions instead of mere plots of land has been a cornerstone of HOPA’s success.
“We build to suit and create the right infrastructure, recognizing that everyone’s demands are going to be different in terms of accessibility to transportation, what kind of coverage space they need, what kind of outdoor laydown space they need, what kind of utilities they need,” he said.
“We’re really open-minded towards creating these customized solutions for them.”
A potential benefit for sustainability
Ontario’s transportation plan was recently announced and, among other things, is intent on reducing greenhouse gasses. Hamilton said the Thorold Multimodal Hub is uniquely positioned to do just that.
In July, Char Technologies announced the first phase of the Thorold Renewable Natural Gas & Biocarbon Project at the hub, which, supported by the Natural Gas Innovation Fund and Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, will help replace fossil fuels and establish a lower-carbon economy.
Northland Power also operates on the site and will contribute to the infrastructure.
Hamilton said a sustainable supply chain would significantly reduce emissions and support Canada’s aspirations to become a net-zero country.
The COVID-19 crisis has also exposed weak links in the supply chain, but the multimodal hub’s expansion should bolster resiliency.
Moreover, Hamilton said each marine vessel removes up to 960 trucks off the roads.
“With shortages in the workforce right now, particularly of drivers in trucking industry, using marine, each vessel is manned by 14 people instead of 940 truck drivers and will help take pressure off truck drivers today and help them focus on that last-mile space,” Hamilton said.