A Suite Idea

May 25, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — What do you do when your tenant goes out of business and leaves you with 100,000 empty square feet of newly constructed office space?

If you're the Robert Grooters Development Co., you turn the space into suites, offer offices as small as 100 square feet, and hope for the best.

Well, it's turned out to be a "suite" idea.

Aerotech Office Suites, which Grooters opened in March near the GeraldR.FordInternationalAirport, now has 10 tenants who are leasing 20,000 square feet in offices that range in size from 100 square feet to 4,000 square feet. But no matter how much space each leases, all of the tenants receive the same office amenities, such as a wireless Internet cafe, a conference room, a fitness center, a stylish lobby and a receptionist.

"Things have gone exceptionally well. It's what we anticipated with the money that we invested. We have signed 10 different new tenants with many more on the fence, so to speak," said Jason Allard, leasing director for Grooters Development.

"With the exception of one larger suite, we've filled Phase 1 and have decided to continue through the rest of the building."

Work has begun to convert another 25,000 square feet into suite space. That work will take on the same plan the first phase did. Tenants will be able to tailor their spaces to their needs, even if they only need a 10-by-10 office that rents for $300 a month.

"There are a lot of people, frankly, who have been working from home and are ready to take that next step. We thought that small suites, like 100 square feet, would be the perfect opportunity for that individual to start branching out, get out of the home, be more productive, and tie in with other businesses," said Allard.

About half of the current tenants lease the entrepreneurial-type small offices, while the other tenants rent thousands of square feet.

"We're going out on a limb … by opening up another 25,000 square feet. It's going to be a huge investment for our company for the construction costs, but it really has been a tremendous success. So we're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to completely revamp this next 25,000-square-foot portion," said Allard.

Grooters built the structure about seven years ago for a commercial lender, who vacated the building a few years ago. Much of the space then was wide open and big enough for a fairly large call center.

What Grooters initially did to test the marketability of the suites was to set aside 20,000 square feet. If that square footage became occupied, the firm then would move into the next phase and dedicate more space for more suites. That is where the project now stands.

Allard said the early response to the suite idea hasn't come from a single industry or business type. Instead, it's been across the board. An executive recruiter, a staffing firm, an Internet-based sales company and a few health care companies are some of the businesses that have joined the national training division of Foremost Insurance as Aerotech tenants.

"So there really hasn't been an exact pattern develop. I think that is better for the tenants, because there is a little piece of the pie from many different business sectors in the building, and the tenants have been extremely happy with the ability to network amongst one another and share ideas," said Allard.

Allard said 45,000 square feet is still available at Aerotech, which is near the intersection of

44th Street
Patterson Avenue SE
in the AerotechIndustrial Park that Grooters owns.

"We are really seeing a turnaround, both with this and our industrial properties," said Allard. "The entire business park by the airport, which is many, many hundreds of thousands of square feet, is completely leased, and that's so awesome for a community, because these are companies that are providing jobs."    

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