Signs Exciting For Warehousing

December 15, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Chip Hurley said he found it staggering recently when the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) announced its manufacturing index suddenly had soared to the highest level in two decades.

Hurley, who is with Grubb& Ellis/Paramount, also said the news was exciting, but a surprise only in its scope.

“In Grand Rapids, we already had started seeing a pick-up in manufacturing,” he told the Business Journal, regarding the market for warehousing and distribution properties.

“Smaller manufacturing was starting to move and we were seeing some increase in demand for 10,000- and 20,000-square-foot distribution spaces.”

But he said he reads the ISM announcement as a strong indicator that “in 2004 things could really come back strong.”

And he certainly hopes the expansion sustains itself because of one property listed with him that almost seems to be a regional case study for warehousing and distribution.

Hurley was referring to a 104,000-square-foot building lying between the Spring Lake and Norton Shores industrial corridor that extends along U.S. 31 between Muskegon and the Tri-Cities.

Currently, he said, it’s an immaculate, echoing cave waiting for much better times.

“It’s really an incredible piece of property,” he said. “Its highest and best use would be for distribution or logistics, but the market in that area for this kind of product has been down.”

He said the building is unusual in having 28-foot ceilings. It also has 48 trucking bays — 29 on the east side, facing U.S. 31, and 19 more in back. Excluding its offices, the structure has 101,800 square feet of warehouse or manufacturing space.

Plus, he said, it has 7.5 acres of parking for up to 160 tractor-trailer rigs. The property lies just under a mile from the nearest U.S. 31 on-ramp and about three miles from access to Interstate 96.

And for the benefit of employees, he added, it’s directly across the street from the biggest fitness, tennis and swimming club in Muskegon County.

Hurley said the structure was erected eight years ago and for a time was used by a trucking line.

Then another firm took it under lease, he said, and had it retrofitted for automotive industry logistics support. During that period, the parking lot was jammed even on weekends and the loading bays were constantly busy.

But starting in 1998, one of the country’s longest periods of industrial expansion began to brake, and then tanked in the wake of the dotcom debacle and the terror attack in New York City.

The structure has been vacant for about three years now and it’s available for sale or sub-lease.

One can lease mutiples of 20,000 square feet for $2.50 a square foot, or buy the package for $3.7 million.

Hurley said he can see demand for this and similar properties growing strongly in the year ahead.

“Those are the indicators,” he said. “But it’s not going to happen all at once.

“At the end of a recession,” he added, “manufacturers are pretty cautious about new hiring and about leasing or buying new property. They want to see whether it’s real.”    

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