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Sunday, 02 March 2014 22:17

Feyen Zylstra to consolidate GR operations to Walker

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Feyen Zylstra plans to pay $475,000 for the former Fairview Elementary School in Walker and move its corporate headquarters to the site, where it would also plan to consolidate its other greater Grand Rapids operations. Feyen Zylstra plans to pay $475,000 for the former Fairview Elementary School in Walker and move its corporate headquarters to the site, where it would also plan to consolidate its other greater Grand Rapids operations. PHOTO: Elijah Brumback

A former Kenowa Hills Public School building in Walker will soon be home to the headquarters of one of the state’s largest electrical contractors.

As it looks to consolidate from three facilities around greater Grand Rapids, Feyen Zylstra LLC plans to close early this month on the former Fairview Elementary School at 2396 Hillside Drive NW in Walker, CEO Nate Koetje confirmed to MiBiz.

The company, currently headquartered at 201 Front Street NW in Grand Rapids, will pay $475,000 for the former school property. Feyen Zylstra plans to renovate and expand the existing building with the goal of consolidating all its Grand Rapids operations under one roof by late 2015, Koetje said.

With the resurgence of the industrial building sector leading to the company’s revenues doubling from roughly $30 million in 2009 to $60 million last year, Feyen Zylstra had to find space quickly, Koetje said. This forced the firm to spread its operations out to two additional locations with a warehousing and logistics facility on Butterworth Avenue and another prefabrication site just off 44th Street.

“As we were growing, we went, ‘Uh oh, we need to lease additional space — let’s go find it,’ but we knew that really wasn’t a long-term solution,” Koetje said.

After looking for almost two years for a new headquarters site, the company found the Walker facility provided the right opportunity, he said.

“We were looking for an urban setting and this was a good opportunity for us,” Koetje said. “We were pretty committed to staying near (Grand Rapids) in some sort of urban corridor, and we felt it really wouldn’t fit with our company’s culture to move out to the suburbs.”

Given the well-documented shortage of quality industrial properties in the region, Feyen Zylstra considered new construction as an option, but renovating the school property made more sense both in cost and location, Koetje said.

“This project gives us a springboard to continue our growth,” he said.

About 80 of the company’s 300-plus employees will move to the new headquarters once the project is finished, Koetje added.

With the help of general contractor Erhardt Construction LLC and architecture firm Progressive AE Inc., Feyen Zylstra plans to convert the gymnasium into a warehouse and logistics space and construct an 8,000-square-foot addition for light assembly and prefabrication. The removal of a number of walls and classrooms will make way for about 36,000 square feet of office space. New windows and other updates to the interior and exterior will give the building a more modern feel, Koetje said.

“The city has been very fortunate with existing and vacant buildings being repurposed, and this is another example of that,” said Frank Wash, community development director for the city of Walker. “The surrounding neighborhood really felt a loss when that school closed. This is a great opportunity for the city to have a respected local business reinvest in a site that has been vacant for years.”

Kenowa Public Schools closed the Fairview Elementary in 2011 along with Marne Elementary, which was later purchased by the Berlin Baptist Church.

The price tag for the project is still up in air as Koetje said he’s unsure how much the company will invest in the redevelopment. The firm hasn’t yet pulled building permits for the project, Wash said.

Despite that, Koetje said the company is moving forward on the project once it closes on the property.

Additionally, Feyen Zylstra is preserving about 2.5 acres of land that will be kept as open space. The city has expressed interest in turning the area into some kind of public space, but the details still need to be sorted out, Koetje said.

“We know the neighborhood is parks-deficient, and we’ve been working on updating the parks master plan for a while now,” Wash said. “The site has been used by the public for decades, but when the school closed, the playground equipment was taken down and it’s mostly overgrown. It’s an urban core area, but now it comes down to what kind of land agreement would be used.”

Whether the land would be leased or donated is just one of the details that still need to be determined at the city commission level, Wash said.

Read 4634 times Last modified on Sunday, 02 March 2014 19:42

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