Economic Development and Real Estate

Nevada-based firm acquires Pyramid building

June 5, 2015
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The former Steelcase Pyramid building has been sold to an out-of-state land development and value-added property firm planning to invest in modernizing the iconic facility.

Steelcase Inc. announced May 29 it has closed on the sale of the approximately 663,000-square-foot Steelcase Corporate Development Center, also known as the Pyramid building, with Norman Pyramid LLC, a Nevada-based company.

The specific terms of the sale of the building at 6100 East Paris Ave. SE in Caledonia Township are confidential at this point, according to Laura VanSlyke, Steelcase corporate communications.

With the acquisition of Steelcase’s former CDC building, Norman Pyramid will have two holdings in the West Michigan region; it previously bought a roughly 365,000-square-foot former Upjohn Co. facility at 6901 Portage Road, Portage.

“Norman is a well-established firm with significant experience repurposing corporate buildings, including work in West Michigan,” said VanSlyke. “The Pyramid building is an iconic structure in Grand Rapids, and we’re pleased to transition ownership to this buyer who envisions a new future for the facility.”

Norman Pyramid LLC was represented by Colliers International’s West Michigan office during the three-week negotiations. The firm specializes in buying older buildings, renovating the property and holding onto it for up to five years while searching for tenants to occupy the space.

Tom DeBoer, principal at Colliers International’s West Michigan office, said Norman Pyramid LLC, or Norman Properties, has been investing in real estate for 40 to 50 years and is a privately held small firm that is quick on making decisions and knows value when they see it.

“Obviously, the Steelcase Pyramid is an iconic building — everyone in West Michigan knows about it, but because it is so unique, they said real quickly, ‘I like it and I want to own it,’” said DeBoer. “They find buildings like this one and bring it up to today’s standards, and reposition it for the marketplace and look for the right users.”

After roughly four years of marketing the building and waiting for the right buyer, VanSlyke said Steelcase was happy to meet up with Norman Pyramid after a previous agreement with Pyramid Campus Investors was terminated in April. 

“The organization approached us with a cash offer after our previous agreement had been terminated,” said VanSlyke. “It was after that had happened we had met up with this person, and it was a pretty quick due-diligence process for them.”

Colliers International indicated in a May 29 press release the Nevada-based company has no current plans for tenancy and anticipates making necessary investments to upgrade and modernize the property prior to leasing space. Since the building only uses a portion of the property being sold with the facility, there is a potential opportunity for land to be sold off for other similar uses, according to the press release.

“Colliers International and Norman Pyramid LLC are confident we will find the right users who can repurpose this building and continue its prominence in West Michigan as a landmark facility,” said DeBoer.

Potential target users include industries such as education, health and research, and large general office users with a need for open space planning, according to the press release. Of the 663,000 square feet, nearly 242,000 square feet was designated for research and development space and more than 330,000 square feet was allocated for office space.

“The reason they are doing this is because they see the West Michigan marketplace as one of the strongest in the Midwest,” said DeBoer. “There is low unemployment, and this location in particular has a high probability for success in time.”

The Pyramid building originally went on the market with a price tag of approximately $19.5 million, which was announced by commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis in October 2012.

Steelcase had been negotiating a purchase agreement with Pyramid Education Campus Investors LLC for nearly two years and had finalized a $7.5 million price as of Nov. 26, 2014. As part of the agreement, Steelcase also planned to collaborate in the research and design planning for the space.

Pyramid Education Campus Investors envisioned renovating the facility into a STEM and arts learning hub.

After discussing multiple deals for the complex, the group terminated the agreement in April 2015 after Steelcase declined a second extension to complete the due diligence process. The group had a pending re-zoning application with Gaines Township and was waiting for approval from the state of Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs at the time of the revised deadline.

Although Pyramid Campus released a statement in May indicating the two organizations had agreed to a new purchase price of $3 million during an email exchange in late April, Steelcase indicated there had been no further purchase agreement executed since the transaction was terminated by ECI and decided to pursue other options.

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