Real estate firm re-envisions urban factory


Don Shoemaker. Photo via

A real estate firm is debating whether to transform a factory that it’s buying near downtown into a high-tech office space or apartment building.

The deal

Franklin Partners, which operates a presence in Naperville, Ill. and Grand Rapids, is under contract to purchase a five story, 375,000-square-foot building, at 1340 Monroe Ave. NW.

The plan is to close on the deal later this month or in early January, said Don Shoemaker, managing partner, Franklin Partners.

Franklin Partners purchased and transformed the 99 Monroe building downtown and will soon have about 5.3 million square of property in the area. The factory would be the firm’s 16th acquisition in the Grand Rapids area.

“Display Pack, Inc. is the occupant and seller,” Shoemaker said. “They’re going to lease the building to us till they finalize on their new home.

“It’s a solid structure, very well maintained by the seller. It’s got good bones, and we like the location.

“West Michigan has been a great partner for our company. We have more presence in West Michigan than we do in metropolitan Chicago.”

Display Pack makes packaging products from plants in Grand Rapids and California.

Duke Suywn of Colliers International West Michigan is the listing agent.

Re-purposing the property

Shoemaker said the plan for the building’s next phase of life hasn’t been decided yet.

The two main ideas being discussed are either developing the building into a high-tech office space with parking for about 1,500 people or developing it into an apartment complex with 200 units.

The plan for the building will likely be announced next month, with construction starting in 2015 and the project being completed in mid 2016.

“When we first started looking at it, we’d been studying housing demand in downtown,” Shoemaker said. “We thought we’d develop it into an apartment building.”

Shoemaker added that the building has a “great ability for window line and a heavy timber and concrete structure,” which would suit a “contemporary apartment space.”

“Then Concept Design approached us with an idea for a high-tech office redevelopment,” Shoemaker said. “They’ve come up with some plans that aren’t ready to be published yet, but have some great concepts to renovate the building for a tech environment you’d see in bigger markets.”


No matter which plan is decided on, Concept Design in Grand Rapids will be the designer of the project.

No contractor has been selected yet.

“The nice thing about West Michigan is it’s hard to pick a bad contractor,” Shoemaker said. 

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