Real Estate

CWD Real Estate moves into renovated facility

June 13, 2014
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CWD Partners
Dan DeVos, Sam Cummings and Scott Wierda, from left, are right at home in the renovated CWD building. Photo by Johnny Quirin

Few could fault CWD Real Estate for enjoying a taste of its own local medicine.

For years, the Grand Rapids-based investment firm, widely respected for its specialization in commercial real estate, has been hard at work renovating Grand Rapids’ core downtown buildings. Now, CWD has moved out of its 4,208-square-foot headquarters in the Blodgett Building at 15 Ionia Ave. SW, and into a newly redesigned 8,045-square-foot space in one of its own rejuvenated buildings at 50 Louis St. NW.

The new CWD Building, formerly known as the Trade Center Building, is a 118-year old, seven-story, 69,000-square-foot structure that CWD purchased in March 2012. It was originally designed by architect William Robinson and built in 1896 by E. Crofton Fox, a local lumber baron. The building was formerly used as a Masonic Temple until 1915, and was converted into an office space in 1953, according to CWD.

“It arguably hadn’t been used most effectively since the Masons moved out almost 100 years ago,” said Sam Cummings, co-managing partner at CWD Real Estate. “If we could lease based on volume or cool architectural features, then ‘Yea!’ We had overwhelming requests to use it for events, but practically speaking, an event space in a multitenant office building on the 6thfloor doesn’t make any sense.”

The CWD Building was restored over a two-year process, with CWD serving as general contractor, Cornerstone Architects providing architectural services and Via Design serving as the designer for the building. The redesign was a tedious and tough process that included a comprehensive exterior restoration involving cleaning and tuck-pointing the entire building façade, as well as replacing all the bricks on the building’s south wall. Thirty-five new windows also were added to increase natural lighting in tenant and common areas. Lobby and restroom renovations were made. Elevators were modernized. And a new, secure connection to the Ottawa Fulton parking ramp was developed, along with numerous other projects, according to CWD.

For CWD’s headquarters and office on the 6thfloor, Wayne Visbeen of Visbeen Architects Inc. served as architect and GMB Architecture + Engineering did the redesign. CWD is now nestled into an elegantly designed glass and wood office space, which uses the original woodwork left by the Masons.

The building was at about 40 percent occupancy when CWD purchased it, Cummings said, but following the renovations occupancy has jumped to 89 percent, including some major local startups.

“We’re so proud that innovative local companies like Aon, Ideomed and Mighty have renewed their commitment to downtown Grand Rapids and to CWD and signed on as major tenants in the CWD Building,” said Scott Wierda, CWD managing partner.

“As these companies have grown, they’ve recognized the value that being part of our city’s vibrant urban core offers for employees, customers and the business itself. At the same time, we’re meeting the very distinct needs of organizations like Start Garden to connect with everything happening in the center of our city.”

Cummings, Wierda and Dan DeVos, principal and partner of CWD, have made it their goal for years to breathe new life into downtown real estate. It’s taken a joint effort, one that needed to be started in the core center of the city and worked outward, DeVos said.

“Our tenure in the industry, breadth of services and 2.6 million-square-foot property management portfolio allows us to take care of our customers throughout the life of their businesses,” Wierda said.

“When we started investing in the core, a lot of these building hadn’t been invested in (for) 30-plus years. They (were) functionally obsolete… It’s important to have a strong core and we looked at it and just said, ‘Let’s just do it right.’ And so a lot of what we’ve been spending isn’t about the next few years’ investment. It’s about the longer-horizon investment.”

A big part of their efforts began as philanthropy, but now the three business partners plan to develop the buildings as sustainable properties. The rent or the money paid to CWD for services stays in the community, and “quite frankly, very often gets reinvested,” Cummings said. 

“All the stuff that’s happening downtown right now, it feels like everything we’ve been working on collectively for the past 20 years is coming to pass right now,” Cummings said. “It feels really good.”

CWD Building Tenants

1st floor – Start Garden; 2,748 SF retail space available

2nd floor – Aon; 2,007 SF suite available

3rd floor – Federal Public Defenders Office; future 1,000 SF conference center

4th floor – Ideomed; signed LOI with future tenant; 1,795 SF suite available

5th floor – Veolia; Mighty; H&S Companies

6th floor – CWD Real Estate Investment; six executive suites available

7th floor – Brett N. Rodgers Chapter 13 Trustee

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