Chicago Firm Buys Steelcase Plant


    KENTWOOD — First it was the old Kelvinator building. Then it was the enormous Bosch plant. And now it’s a vast Steelcase facility.

    In roughly eight years, Franklin Partners LLC has purchased about 2 million square feet of vacant industrial space in the metro Grand Rapids market.

    Back in 1997, Franklin Partners marked its entry here by buying and later selling the Kelvinator plant at

    500 44th St. SW

    in Wyoming. Then the Chicago-based commercial real estate investment firm purchased the 915,000-square-foot Bosch building in 2003 and has since leased and sold most of that space, which is at 4700 Broadmoor SE in Kentwood.

    Now Franklin Partners plans to close next month on a Steelcase manufacturing building at

    5353 Broadmoor Ave. SE

    , also in Kentwood, that offers 665,890 square feet of space. Price and terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    “Our goal is to bring new jobs to Kentwood,” said Donald Shoemaker, who started the company with Martin McCormick in 1995.

    Shoemaker and McCormick are using the same local team that helped them buy and convert the former Bosch plant for the Steelcase transaction. Grubb & Ellis/Paramount, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, and A.J. Veneklasen Inc. are respectively assisting with the purchase, design and construction aspects of the deal.

    “This team has had tremendous success with the redevelopment of the former Bosch plant, where more than 80 percent of the space has been leased, and we expect the same results with this new venture,” said Shoemaker.

    The strategy Franklin Partners has for the Steelcase building will follow the tactic the firm used on the Bosch plant, namely some reconstruction and division of the space.

    “It splits pretty well into about four different-sized spaces. We can go about as small as 100,000 square feet,” said Shoemaker. “So our plans are to divide the space, to build new entrances and offices. We really treat buildings like they are build-to-suits.”

    John Kuiper, a vice president and industrial specialist with Grubb & Ellis/Paramount, said interested tenants can check out the building now.

    “The building shows extremely well and we will continue to do some improvements after the closing date. Tours are readily available,” he said.

    The single-story Steelcase building, which opened in 1987, has 11 loading docks, 5 drive-in doors and 24-foot-high ceilings. The structure, situated on M-37 just north of M-6, also has 12,000 square feet of office space and is heated by a forced air system.

    “It’s very easy to differentiate this building from the typical warehouse-type property. It has really great infrastructure. It has good clear height and good power. It’s an attractive facility with nice office space. It’s unlike any other product on the market,” said Shoemaker.

    Rent at the building is expected to run from $3 to $3.25 per square foot on a triple net basis, with the exact price depending on a tenant’s needs.

    Shoemaker gave credit to Kentwood Mayor Richard Root and The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs for assisting with the transaction. He said Root helped Franklin Partners “cut through the red tape” that is normally tightly wrapped around a multi-million dollar deal, and also praised Klohs for her “tireless efforts.”

    Meanwhile, construction on the front portion of the Bosch plant is expected to be completed next month. X-Rite Inc. bought that section, roughly 365,000 square feet, last April for its new headquarters. Intertek ETL Entela is the building’s latest tenant; the firm leased 96,000 square feet in October.

    Franklin Partners demolished about 100,000 square feet of the Bosch building to create a truck court and then converted the plant into two separate buildings. The firm still owns 450,000 square feet in one building and has 180,000 square feet available for lease.

    Franklin Partners owns and manages industrial and office space primarily in the Midwest

    “We’ve owned roughly around two million square feet of space in West Michigan. The reason I come here from Chicago is I feel that Grand Rapids is a hidden gem as a real estate market, and the town has more manufacturing jobs per capita than any city in the country,” said Shoemaker, whose firm has also invested in Kalamazoo.

    “There are a lot of very strong manufacturers in Grand Rapids that we feel will continue to grow and will need more space.”    

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