WYOMING — Stakeholders looking to redevelop one of West Michigan’s most storied industrial sites and attract high-quality manufacturing jobs have brought on a new partner.
Franklin Partners LLC, the Grand Rapids- and Naperville, Ill.-based commercial development and property management firm, will take over as lead marketer and development partner for the Site 36 Industrial Park in Wyoming, principal Don Shoemaker told MiBiz in an exclusive interview last week.
With a track record for taking aging or vacant facilities around the Grand Rapids region and returning them to use, the company will now turn its efforts to the vacant 92-acre industrial site off 36th Street SW that was formerly home to a General Motors stamping plant, Shoemaker said.
“It’s been a site that people couldn’t visualize how it was going to work. You could go on Google and see a big gray site,” Shoemaker said. “It needs a vision. Where utilities will go, what’s it going to look like? You need a developer.”
Shoemaker remains open to a variety of options for the site, including selling a building to an industrial client or leasing a facility to them. It all depends on the needs of future tenants, he said.
All told, sources said they envision total investment at the site reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Franklin Partners joins the already existing group of stakeholders — namely, the city of Wyoming and The Right Place Inc., the Grand Rapids-based regional economic development group — who have worked to market the property for about five years.
“A potential user needs to be able to visualize (the site) and that’s something we haven’t had in the past,” said Therese Thill, vice president of business development at The Right Place.
Bloomfield Hills-based development firm Lormax Stern LLC previously served as the development partner at Site 36.
Duke Suwyn and Steve Marcusse, executives in the Grand Rapids office of commercial brokerage Colliers International Group Inc., also will come aboard in helping to show the property to various industrial users.
“Ultimately, it’s our job to find the right user for the site,” said Marcusse, a partner and industrial adviser for the firm. “Franklin Partners is certainly the best developer for this. It’s extremely daunting to look at an 80-acre site. Franklin Partners will handle the infrastructure.”
The stakeholders now have a marketing plan in place that includes possible site plans and renderings. Depending on the needs of the anticipated users, the Site 36 Industrial Park could house between two and six buildings, totaling about 1 million square feet of industrial real estate, according to the renderings.
Both brokers have started some early negotiations with possible users, but Suwyn and Marcusse declined to identify them.
Despite the addition of Franklin Partners and brokers from Colliers International, the end goal for the property remains the same. Ultimately, the group hopes to bring one or more high-quality manufacturing users and maximize the use of the site, which includes direct highway and rail access, as well as a plentiful supply of power.
“We want jobs that pay a decent wage,” Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt said. “Maybe not the sole bread-winner, but these are the people left unemployed by GM. They may be employed now, but we have a skilled workforce.”
Finding an industrial user in need of space might not be too difficult, according to recent commercial real estate reports. The third quarter industrial market report from Colliers International notes that out of more than 108 million square feet of space for the sector spread around the region, only about 5.6 percent sits vacant.
As MiBiz reported last month, developers are now seeing the need for speculative industrial space. However, Shoemaker said he didn’t plan to begin any building without deals in place.
Ultimately, Holt and other sources said they could envision a variety of industrial sectors, ranging from automotive to medical device to food processing, being interested in the Site 36 Industrial Park. Holt said he’d consider a data center user, similar to the proposal from Las Vegas-based Switch Ltd. at the former Steelcase Pyramid in Gaines Township.
By being open to a variety of users and capitalizing on favorable economic conditions, Shoemaker at Franklin Partners said he’s optimistic that an announcement regarding a user could take place in 2017.
“I think it will be a handful of larger users,” Shoemaker said. “I want good manufacturing jobs and it’s got power, rail and everything else you need. It’s still a good economy for building and there’s no supply.”