The responsibility of a commercial real estate investor is to expect the unexpected, but knowing this cliché doesn’t really prepare you for the feeling of waking up to discover that your brand new million-square-foot building has been wiped off the face of the earth. This was the incredible reality for the development team at Texas-based investment firm Mohr Capital earlier this year, when a tornado tore through the heart of its Mohr Logistics Park project, a 7-million-square-foot industrial park of warehouses located 20 miles south of Indianapolis in the town of Whiteland, Indiana. During the early hours of April 1 – yes, April Fool’s Day – a tornado, classified as an EF-3 or “severe” weather event on the Enhanced Fujita scale, struck the park’s completed third building, known internally by Mohr as Lot 6, with wind speeds up to 165 miles per hour. Completed mere days before the arrival of the storm, the 1,057,350-square-foot warehouse was the largest finished structure in the 475-acre industrial park, a project for which Mohr Capital Chairman and CEO Bob Mohr returned to his hometown of Indianapolis to construct the largest industrial park built in the city in the last ten years. Fifty percent of the building was already leased and delivered to a major international tenant, but thankfully not yet occupied by personnel at the time of the storm. Debris from the shattered warehouse, literally split down the middle by the tornado’s path, was later discovered as far as three miles away. Miraculously, no one was injured in the storm, despite the complete destruction of approximately 20 nearby homes in the Whiteland community.
How does one even begin to respond to such a devastating and unexpected event? At Mohr, the answer was to check on the neighbors. “The debris field left me speechless,” said Keith Hardin, the owner of the farm directly across Interstate 65 from Mohr Logistics Park, who suffered the total loss of a barn structure and further damage to several other buildings on his property. “Twisted metal from the Mohr Logistics Park and my barn was everywhere. Roof insulation from the warehouses covered the ground, making it appear as if it had snowed.”
Hardin said he immediately began the cleanup process on his land with the help of a small team, but the group had barely made a dent after two days of work. It was then that a crew of roughly 50 additional helpers arrived along with dumpsters and heavy equipment, all sent by Mohr Capital to assist Hardin and his neighbors with the recovery. “I was so deeply humbled, I had trouble speaking,” he said. Even with Mohr’s assistance, cleaning up the debris scattered across the property took three weeks of work.
With the cleanup process well underway, it was time for Mohr to assess the damage to its own site and determine the path ahead for rebuilding the property. As it turned out, the tornado actually could have been a lot worse – despite the devastation of the Lot 6 warehouse, the adjacent buildings in the park suffered almost no damage, even with several buildings under construction at the time of the storm.
After carefully examining the remains of Lot 6, Mohr Capital and their vendors determined that the concrete slab foundation was still fully intact and salvageable, allowing the firm to rebuild the warehouse atop the original slab without the considerable added time and expense of demolishing and pouring a new foundation. This sped up the timeline of reconstruction by months, with the firm reporting that the Lot 6 building could be completely rebuilt exactly as it was by the end of the year. To date, the recovery effort has been impressive; Mohr has completed the cleanup, and is nearly finished with the installation of new wall panels, steel and roofing. In Bob Mohr’s words, “it’s been meaningful to me on a personal level to return to my hometown for such a large project. The tornado caused devastating damage, but we’re bouncing back and grateful for the resilience of the people of Indianapolis.”
It might sound more than a little strange to describe a tornado hitting Mohr Logistics Park as a feel-good story, but if you look at the highlights – the lack of any casualties in the disaster, the generosity of one neighbor helping another, and Mohr’s will to overcome catastrophe – these facts add up to a downright cinematic tale of a community stronger than any storm. If you’re going to face down a tornado, the best you can do is try to navigate the aftermath with a little grace – and remember, years from now, it’s going to make for a heck of a yarn. “I look forward to the day when the warehouses are rebuilt, and I can point in that direction and tell the tornado story,” Hardin said. Thankfully, the story will be one this community can be proud of.
What was a fully completed million square foot warehouse on April 1st was a mostly
destroyed one on the morning of April 2nd, with its roof torn off and scattered all over the area.
Large semi-trailers were thrown around like toys at another neighboring one million square foot warehouse.
Columns were bent and wall panels were blown inwards and outwards by the powerful winds of the tornado.
Debris from the warehouse structure was later discovered as far as three miles away.
It took a team of fifty people three weeks to clean all of the debris off the neighboring farm.
Following the path the storm took, you can see the tornado tore right through the middle of the
building, and took almost all of the structural components with it.
The Lot 6 building is now completely rebuilt, nearly two months ahead of schedule, and almost fully leased.