Developers Have New Condo Idea

May 14, 2004
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ADA — The project may very well be a first for the region, something that should hold plenty of appeal for small-business owners, especially those located south of the city.

Stor-U-Own LLC, a local investment firm, is putting the final touches on a one-of-a-kind commercial condominium project in Ada Township. Known as Ada Landings, the unique development offers small businesses storage and office space in a condo style.

Jay Carll and Bill Barnett comprise Stor-U-Own and they have put up four buildings that range from 6,000 square feet to 7,000 square feet in size at 8138 E. Fulton, just north of the Grand River and just east of Pettis Street.

What makes Ada Landings distinctive is that Carll and Barnett are selling the buildings in 1,000-square-foot increments rather than leasing space in the structures. They researched the market and quickly came to the conclusion that the owner of a plumbing or a heating and cooling company could never afford to buy a piece of land in Ada, if one could be found, and then put a building on it.

“There is a tremendous shortage of commercial and industrial zoned land in the Ada area, and when you look at the master plan, it’s clear there isn’t going to be any more,” said Carll.

The buildings have ceilings that reach 14 feet in height, a service door, an overhead door and all the basic plumbing. The structures were built with a 50-year, cement-fiber product and are low maintenance.

“These buildings have a long-term life to them and we feel we have created something that aesthetically really blends in the area,” said Carll.

Storage isn’t the only reason they built the project. Carll and Barnett also see some firms putting a small office in, so that aspect was designed into the effort. Buyers take possession in a “white box” condition, meaning they can design their space to fit their needs. Carll said they will probably start closing on some of the reservations they have within a couple of weeks.

“The buildings start at $68 a square foot. A guy can come in and spend $68,000 to buy his space, and when you figure the payment at today’s interest rate, it’s under $400 (a month). It would cost a guy more to lease that space, if he could find it,” he said.

“You’d be in the hundreds of thousand of dollars if you tried to build it,” he added.

“We feel we’ve built something that can attract a wide market, from the personal user to the commercial small user to one who wants 4,000 feet; we can still accommodate that.”

Carll and Barnett also built the Ada Attic a few years back. They sold that self-storage complex to Cascade Spare Room last year when that firm had to move from its airport site because of highway construction. It was Ada Attic that gave them the idea for Ada Landing. But they changed their business plan from leasing to selling to give small-business owners some financial equity and to help stabilize their future costs.

“We are able to provide people with great economies of scale; therefore giving the small-business owner an opportunity to build equity,” said Carll. “Additionally, it is easier for the business to calculate reasonable future costs if they own, or have a mortgage on it vs. a lease.”

Carll is also a partner with Eric Wynsma and Terra Firma Development in the renovation of what many believe to be the city’s oldest office structure at 180 Monroe Ave. NW. The four-story building, which opened in 1853 at the corner of Monroe and Pearl, is actually two structures that were joined as one and given a facelift in the late 1970s.

“We thought this building was completely hidden from the character that it has,” said Carll. “We (demolished) the whole inside and then we went to what we thought was going to be just picking out the brick, paint colors and so forth for the exterior, and the designer said, ‘Whoa, you’ve got a great opportunity here.’”

Brian Barkwell of Via Design Inc., onboard for the exterior work, told the partners that they couldn’t just peel off the brown covering and use the old brick underneath as the new façade. He showed the partners photos of the building before it was covered in 1979, which revealed that the brick was in pretty bad condition and wouldn’t make for a very attractive façade.

So Carll and Wynsma will install a new façade on the building. They’re sort of using the Urban House at 16 Ionia Ave. SW for their template, meaning the street level will feature large windows accented by mahogany wood.

“He completely took us in a whole different direction than we thought we were going to go. Really, the credit lies with the designer. He just did an awesome job,” said Carll. “We think it’s going to create more of a street-friendly appeal.”

Work on removing that ’70s brown façade is underway.           

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