Steelcase looks to sell land


An unknown developer is seeking approval to build a warehousing and distribution center in Gaines Township.

According to documents given to the Gaines Charter Township Planning Commission, the applicant, named Project Rapids, proposed construction of an 855,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility at 4500 68th St. SE.

Project Rapids plans to purchase the more than 100-acre site from Steelcase Inc. The site is part of a larger 515-acre parcel Steelcase owns.

The specific uses of the proposed facility include:

  • Shipping, receiving, distributing, preparing and selling products, materials, food and grocery, and liquor items

  • Parking, storage and use of automobiles, trucks, machinery and trailers

  • Making and assembling of products on demand

  • Data processing and storage and ancillary and related uses for the foregoing

The layout features a two-story building with 1 million internal square feet, along with mezzanine floors not technically defined as stories. About 55,000 square feet will be reserved for office space and 2,709 parking spaces are included in the site plan.

Media reports have claimed Project Rapids is a developer tied to Amazon, citing unnamed sources. Shevaun Brown, Amazon regional operations PR manager, declined to say whether the Gaines Township plans were related to the e-commerce platform.

“Amazon is constantly investigating new locations to support the growth and increase the flexibility of its North American network to address customers’ needs,” she said. “Amazon is not yet commenting on any specific plans in Michigan.”

Katie Woodruff, global audience communications manager for Steelcase, confirmed the property in question belonged to Steelcase but did not disclose the nature of the company’s relationship with Project Rapids.

“Steelcase is occasionally approached by outside organizations or individuals looking to purchase its real estate holdings, but we do not comment on the existence or status of potential or pending transactions,” she said.

Steelcase’s original intent for the PUD was to headquarter all of its projected operations in a “large industrial/office park environment.”

Approval for the project itself may still be far off. Part of the 100-acre parcel is not zoned as PUD. A 0.8-acre section in the northwest and a 2.23-acre portion in the southwest were both former home sites and are zoned accordingly.

Steelcase originally did not own these sections when the PUD was established in 1985. It was expanded a year later to include the former residential properties, but they were not rezoned as PUD. Project Rapids is seeking to rezone the sections with Steelcase’s support.

The Gaines Township Planning Commission made a motion to recommend the township board rezone the two properties during a regular meeting March 22. The board is scheduled to vote at a public hearing April 9.

If the zoning changes are approved, Project Rapids is expected to present a complete plan to the planning commission April 22.

Mark Sisson, Gaines Township planning director, also declined to say whether Project Rapids had any ties with Amazon.

Amazon overlooked West Michigan earlier this year as the potential home of a second U.S. headquarters. The Right Place Inc. CEO Birgit Klohs previously told the Business Journal she believed the key issues keeping Amazon out of West Michigan were lack of talent and lack of adequate transportation.

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