Real Estate

Bridgewater Place stands out to new buyer

January 25, 2013
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Varnum law firm revamps management structure
Varnum law firm is comprised of more than 150 lawyers who work out of five offices across Michigan, including the Bridgewater Place highrise in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo via fb.com

A familiar piece of the Grand Rapids skyline is going to change hands once again.

Bridgewater Place, the city’s largest downtown office building, is in the process of being sold again, this time to Hertz Investment Group — a Santa Monica, Calif., based investment company with more than 40 major urban properties and about 12 million square feet of downtown office space spread across 13 U.S. cities in 10 states.

The deal, Hertz’s first in Michigan, is expected to be finalized in about 30 to 45 days, said Colin Kraay, a principal at Colliers International who served as the lead sales executive on the deal.

The sale of the 17 story blue-glass building located at 333 Bridge St. NW will not affect the adjoining River House Condominiums, Kraay said, which were technically developed under a different owner.


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Colliers International and Rockwood Real Estate co-listed the sale together, Kraay said. He could not disclose the purchase price, but said Hertz has been great to work with on the deal.

“We had been marketing the building for the better part of six months and had about nine offers on the building, some local, some national,” he said. “About 45 days ago, (Hertz was) given the exclusive option to perform due diligence. They were there relatively early and had their first market tour during the start of ArtPrize.”

Bridgewater Place, originally built by Robert Grooters about 20 years ago, has changed hands many times since its inception. When its previous owners defaulted on a $36 million mortgage two years ago, General Motors Acceptance Corp. bought the building for $34 million in a sheriff’s auction.

The ownership change comes at a time when the market is “re-setting,” Kraay said, and could lead to new interest in the building. Willis Insurance recently moved in, he said, and New York Life also doubled its footprint.

Varnum LLP currently leases approximately 90,000 square feet in the building, Kraay said, and Spectrum Health, which is currently on the third floor and part of the fourth, is building out its space.

“This is probably the fourth or fifth time it has traded hands, and from my standpoint it’s finally trading hands at a level where the buyer will keep it stable with long-term intent,” he said. “I’m not sure what plans they have, but I can tell you the group is well capitalized, and they’ll do what they can to continue improving each individual floor to make it competitive.”

Kraay also noted it might have helped that Hertz toured the city during ArtPrize, when the community is “at our best.”

The fact that the building received multiple offers, especially at the national level, is another indicator of Grand Rapids’ growing stature outside the local market, he said.

“Nobody likes it when a bank owns a building, so the resolution of the new owner alone might increase interest in the building,” he said. “For us to have someone from the outside come in shows our community stands tall.”

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