Four New Distribution Centers Planned for Winlock Industrial Park


Development: Crow Holdings, Exeter Property Group and Benaroya Seek to Industrialize Winlock Land

It was the early 2000s when former Winlock Mayor Cy Meyers first got behind proposals to expand Winlock to Interstate 5.

Since then, there’s been a recession and plenty of anti-growth sentiment from residents of the South Lewis County city. Winlock’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) — a designation under the Growth Management Act that allows zoning changes so cities can expand — that stretches to I-5, covering parcels where the Mickelsen Dairy used to stand, has remained largely dormant for decades.

Current Mayor Brandon Svenson is picking up where Meyers left off.

On Tuesday morning, six deer hopped along a field across from the old dairy land as hawks circled overhead. Besides abandoned barns, the land appears untouched.

But off the property, in land developer headquarters in Seattle, Los Angeles and Pennsylvania, the gears are in motion to maximize the land Svenson and Winlock Community Development Director Robert Webster refer to as “high and dry and halfway between Portland and Seattle.” The way they see it, Winlock is sitting on a development gold mine.

Exeter, a Pennsylvania-based developer must see it that way, too. With its proposed construction site plan, Exeter is eyeing the creation of four new distribution centers in the near future — two of the proposed buildings would be 1.2 million square feet, one approximately 600,000 square feet and one about 225,000 square feet. The proposal is “fluid,” Svenson said, depending on the needs of the site’s tenants.

“We’re really trying to push manufacturing more so than warehousing if at all possible,” he said.

Winlock’s industrial park kicked off with the Lowe’s distribution center, a 1.2 million square foot building that opened in early November 2021 on property owned by Seattle-based developer Benaroya. Late in 2021, Benaroya sold a large chunk of its Winlock property to LA-based developer Crow Holdings. Exeter Property Group has owned land there since mid-2020.

The next tenants of the park are yet to be revealed, but if Svenson has his way, it will be a business that can provide living-wage jobs to Winlock-area residents.

“You know, it’s kind of up to the people that are building these things and the tenants they get,” Svenson said. “But the first one, the 600,000 square foot, is (going to be) manufacturing and distribution.”

Webster added: “Brandon (Svenson) has been pushing really hard for good-paying jobs. Like, livable jobs. Which is what we need, and everybody deserves that.”

For the first building, Exeter hopes to break ground this spring. If the tenants are there, Svenson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the company moved forward at a rate of one center per year.

Exeter is close to submitting its State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) proposal. Webster said that it could be submitted in about one week. After the submission, there will be an opportunity for the public to weigh in on development through a hearing held by the city.


‘Growing Pains’

Rapid growth isn’t everyone’s style, Svenson said. Behind his Winlock home, what used to be a forest is now being developed into 23 new residences.

Out on the industrial park, Svenson stretched his hands out, displaying the beauty of the land before him and grimacing as he said, “It turns out I don’t have the cash to buy it and just leave it like this.”

The conflict between what’s best for Winlock and losing its rural feel stirs inside him as it does many residents. But as long as landowners are following city codes and guidelines, he said, they have the right to do whatever they want with their property.

A recent presentation by Lewis County assessor Dianne Dorey highlighted the fact that every metric used to measure growth in the area, including population, new construction value and home valuations, is in an unprecedented boom. Whether or not Winlock residents are ready, growth is upon them.

“It’s frustrating for some people, and I understand. This town’s been small for a long time and it hasn’t really grown. It’s kind of our turn. Especially with the industrial park kicking off the way it is and needing housing for that,” Svenson said, adding later: “It’s a big deal for the county. Because all your employees are not going to come just from Winlock, right? It’s going to be countywide jobs.”

The city, along with the rest of Lewis County, is racing to get enough housing to support the growth. So far, just this year, Svenson said there have been around 25 new housing permits issued in Winlock. The new development will also require changes to the I-5 exit as the city sees traffic from semi-trucks transporting goods in and out.

Unlike some, Webster is optimistic about the growth. It means more sidewalks and streetlights, which will make the city safer and more comfortable.

“With a city like this, you kind of grow or you die to a point, right? We have this fantastic downtown corridor here, and I'm really hoping that all the new folks that are coming in will support it more,” Svenson said. “It's going to provide, obviously, the jobs. The schools are going to grow. We're going to have to work on that. You know, there's growing pains. And the school and ourselves, we're working together to make sure that we mitigate everything the best we can.”