First Tenant Arrives At Lear

April 28, 2006
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WALKER — Blue Bridge Ventures LLC closed on the massive Lear Corp. plant in Walker last week and promptly leased roughly half of the 800,000 square feet of available space to a leading supplier of components to the retail industry.

Amstore, which makes and sells showcase islands, cash wraps, service counters, fitting rooms, store fronts and other items to retailers, has leased 395,000 square feet for the next several years in the former automotive parts factory at 2150 Alpine Ave. NW.

The company, which is based in Coopersville, is moving in this week. Amstore plans to add another 55,000 square feet of space to its lease this fall and bring its presence there to 450,000 square feet.

“We’re still going to have several hundred thousand square feet left in that building, and there is a chance that (Amstore) may downsize and we have the ability to capture some of the space back,” said Jack Buchanan, CEO of Blue Bridge Ventures.

“We will have about 300,000 to 350,000 feet, assuming we don’t take back the space from them, which we might do in the future as we redevelop the building,” he added.

Now that the transaction has closed, Buchanan said Blue Bridge can turn its focus toward redesigning the building’s exterior and dividing the interior into multiple suites. But he plans to remain flexible as to how large a suite will be, and let the market largely determine how the building will be divided.

“That’s why we said there could be three, four, five or six suites, ultimately, in that building. It’s really going to be driven by the leasing end. We’re condoing it, too. We’re dividing it up so somebody can buy space there, as well,” said Buchanan.

Buchanan said Blue Bridge was also in negotiations with a retail developer. Part of the redevelopment plan includes about seven acres of retail space on the 41-acre property. The retail would be located west of the former factory, on what is now the parking lot. Instead of marketing the retail itself, Blue Bridge may sell that portion of the site to the developer.

“Our preference is to let somebody else develop that, because we don’t do a lot of retail. This firm has a lot more experience with retail and connections with more national retailers. We have a lot of the terms worked out; it’s just not a final deal at all,” he said.

Blue Bridge picked up the option on the property last fall, and last month the state named the site a Renaissance Zone. That means the property will be fully exempted from most state and local taxes for the next 12 years and partially exempted for the following three years.

Buchanan said he wasn’t certain exactly how many employees Amstore would eventually locate at the site.

“We want to fill it up with people that are going to get a benefit from the Ren Zone, which means someone with a lot of employees,” he said. “We see a lot more employment base coming here somewhere down the road.”

S.J. Wisinski & Co. is handling the leasing for Blue Bridge through Brad Rosely and David Levitt. Buchanan said lease rates would be kept at market value and not inflated because of the building’s tax-exempt status.

“We are going to be the same rate as everybody else. With a lot of these Ren Zone places, they mark the rate up. We’re not doing that,” he said.

“We’re going to try to draw employers to that building and that area by keeping it at market rent and letting them have the benefit of the Ren Zone.”    

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