Final sale marks end of 25-year relationship


The relationship between Colliers International West Michigan and Elston-Richards marks a long one for the real estate industry.

Spanning a quarter of a century, the West Michigan real estate firm has helped the third-party logistics group facilitate nearly 3 million square feet in transactions, and Duke Suwyn, CEO of Colliers International West Michigan, said he values the long-term relationship over the one-time transaction.

Recently, Suwyn helped negotiate the sale of Elston-Richards’ final industrial property, 3787 Patterson Ave. SE, to SIBSCO LLC, a Grand Rapids development company, marking the end of their 25-year partnership.

“John was a tremendous guy to work with,” Suwyn said of Elston-Richards CEO John Holmes. “His word was his contract. … It’s just a long period of time in our world to be doing business with the same clients.”

Suwyn said his early years with Elston-Richards involved helping the company lease space locally and nationwide, often involving several-hundred-thousand-square-foot buildings.

Over time, Elston-Richards’ business model changed slightly. As rent prices made it less enticing economically for tenants to lease large-scale warehouses, Suwyn helped Elston-Richards break up its large, single-use buildings into multitenant facilities.

Suwyn pointed to 3787 Patterson as an example of the same strategy. Originally, the property encompassed a single large warehouse built for Elston-Richards’ needs, but Suwyn and Holmes came up with a plan to make it a multitenant building over several years.

“(Duke) knows the West Michigan market inside and out, knows how to handle complex transactions that involve many moving parts and, above all, knows how to get deals across the finish line,” Holmes said.

Although Suwyn said the real estate industry has remained relatively consistent over 25 years, the biggest change in his mind is a lower level of trust between brokers and clients overall. He said if brokers don’t establish a strong relationship with clients, it could slow down the transaction process.

“A low trust environment is a high tax environment,” he said. “We in West Michigan are fortunate to have a lot of high-trust people here. When people have high integrity, you can move through things very fast.”

With the final property in the Elston-Richards portfolio under new ownership, Suwyn said he doesn’t see much business with the logistics group in the future, but he still is eager to continue business with other clients in the area.

“Franklin Partners is extremely active and other ones like them,” he said. “Years ago, I worked with Steelcase and the disposition of their main campus. … I’ve had just some tremendous opportunities to work with great people for 20-plus years.”

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