Broker sees different users for industrial space

November 9, 2011
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The tenants in local industrial sites are beginning to change. No longer are manufacturing plants only being occupied by users with large presses, heavy stamping machines and a fleet of forklifts.

Today, a cushy dog kennel and intricate glass-blowing tools have surfaced in facilities that were designed to make auto parts and school desks. And although this shift may not yet be a trend, it could become one.

“I think we’re going to see more of that, where some of these industrial buildings are going to be adapted to different uses because the demand for some of them has been down a little bit,” said Randy Bronkema, a longtime commercial real estate broker and owner of Independence Realty.

Bronkema recently represented The Well-Mannered Dog Center, a new venture owned by Kathy Snyder, in securing a seven-year lease at 5949 Clay St. SW in Wyoming. The industrial building, just south of 54th Street near U.S. 131, was vacant after a limo manufacturer left.

Snyder’s new business now has 26,530 square feet of space to offer obedience, rally and confirmation classes, along with boarding, day care and play-date services.

“She has been a dog lover for many years and wanted to open a business, and this transaction kind of fulfilled her dream to do that,” said Bronkema. “She took the whole building. It’s a free-standing building and is really easy to find. She just opened.”

The property is owned by Rex Troost; Signature Associates represented him in the deal.

“It’s a fairly large industrial building that she had to get zoning approval for, because a dog center is not necessarily zoned for industrial. But she did get that approved,” Bronkema said. “She painted the entire building and put some special flooring in it. It’s quite the place. If you’re into dogs, it’s a dog’s heaven.”

Bronkema recently helped another non-traditional manufacturing business purchase an industrial condominium in Standale. The Grand Rapids Glass Blowing Studio, owned by local artists Scott Haebich and John Riepma, recently moved to 0-645 Lake Michigan Drive NW after they plied their trade north of the area for five years. They bought 1,500 square feet of industrial space from Lake Michigan Commerce Park LLC.

“They make different art pieces. They also offer classes. They bought an industrial condominium in Standale and moved down here from Newaygo just within the last month. It’s somewhat industrial with the glass blowing, but the oven is very small,” said Bronkema, who added the artists were the first to buy a unit in the relatively new industrial complex.

Bronkema has the listing for another building that fits the industrial mode and he just may come up with another uncharacteristic user. The building is a wedge shot from downtown’s core at 532 Ottawa Ave. NW, about a block north of Michigan Street. The structure has 7,211 square feet, a loading dock, a 2,100-square-foot office area, lots of storage space and a small parking lot.

FMS Property Management LLC, which is led by Fred Steiner, owns the building, which the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids recently vacated. The Wolff Group has used the 5,100 square feet of warehousing space in the one-story building for storage. Bronkema said FMS, which remodeled the structure, is willing to lease space or sell the building.

“I’m targeting a company that has a pretty large office need because that area is roughly a third of the building. It’ll probably be a small distribution company. There is a dock there with a very nice loft office. It’s a good location with on-site parking. It’s for somebody who doesn’t have a lot of employees, maybe one guy in the warehouse and three or four people up front in the office,” said Bronkema.

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