A commercial real estate developer in the region is planning to build a multi-faceted food processing facility and business incubator on the site of a former farmers market.
Muskegon-based Core Development, the project's owner, said this week it is planning a three-phase project called the Food Forward FARM (food, agriculture, research and manufacturing) Incubator/Manufacturing Facility.
The facility is expected to cost between $5-$7 million. It would be located on the site of the former Muskegon Farmers Market in downtown Muskegon, at 731 Yuba St.
The city has approved a re-zoning that allows for the proposed use, but a final site plan has not been developed yet, said Bryan Bench, a partner in Core Development and partner and commercial manager for Core Realty Partners.
Bench said the Core teams have been working on the plans for several months but are just starting “face-to-face meetings with potential users and tenants.”
“We keep hearing there’s demand and need for this kind of space,” Bench said. “We’re building it to be flexible, and it will have a range of food companies, from well-established food processing companies to food startups.”
Muskegon-based Core Realty Partners is handling marketing and securing tenants for the project, in partnership with the West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative.
The initiative was established in October to promote the expansion of the food processing industry in West Michigan. It is comprised of four pillars: infrastructure; education and training; port logistics; and incubation and product development.
Dennis Marvin, senior consultant for programs and communication for the initiative, said this is the first major step toward realizing the fourth pillar.
“From early on, we had heard from a number of our food processors involved with us that they had a difficult time testing new technology processes or introducing new products," Marvin said. "They don’t have a way to do that, because they can’t shut down an existing production line, and they don’t have a test line. So, we said, ‘Gee, we should do something to help.’
“We heard from Core Development, and they were interested from the private sector. Since then … we’ve been collaborating with Bryan (Bench) and John Essex (managing partner of Core Development) to develop the FARM.”
Core Development has also consulted with architects and a contractor but did not disclose the names of the firms.
The FARM would be designed to offer food-grade industrial space with individual suites ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.
The space would be “ideally suited” for food- and agriculture-based businesses: including dairy; food research; fruit and agriculture; beverage and distillery; food manufacturing and packaging; stage-one and stage-two startups; and wraparound services to the food industry.
Phase one would consist of 40,000 to 50,000 square feet, including the main facility, with a collaboration center and a pilot space available for short duration/product launch use.
Bench said Core Development estimates phase one could be complete within a year.
Phase two would add 20,000 to 30,000 square feet and could likely be underway in 18 months, Bench said.
Phase three would include an additional 40,000 square feet, including freezer storage. A launch timeline has not yet been determined.
Phase-one spaces are available for lease.
Processing spaces are $5.50-$7 per square foot. Office spaces range from $12-$15 per square foot.
The Yuba Street property is eligible for brownfield redevelopment funds, according to Bench, and Core Development plans to secure those.
The firm also plans to secure incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
The rest of the project would be funded privately.