LifeSavers No More

November 5, 2007
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Owners of the former LifeSavers manufacturing facility at 635 E. 48th St. have been showcasing the facility’s recently completed $2 million renovation to the West Michigan community.

Now under consideration for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s SelectSite designation, the East 48th Industrial Center no longer has any undesirable remnants of the LifeSavers operation. A series of small manufacturing spaces and offices in the 200,000-square-foot southern half of the building has been removed to create white-box manufacturing space with 22-foot ceilings, new lighting, paint, dock doors and truck wells.

“I had a vision of how it would turn out, and I think it turned out even better than that,” said Doug Gulker, principal of Fusion Properties in Ada, the company that purchased the 40-year-old property four years ago. “It definitely doesn’t look like LifeSavers anymore. All I’m hearing from everyone that has gone through is how well it’s cleaned up and what a dramatic difference there is.”

Fusion Properties acquired the plant shortly after it closed in 2002. Prior to the current renovation, most improvements to the building were to suit tenant needs. The combination of a more competitive market for industrial real estate, rising scrap prices and state incentives created a business case for the current speculative improvements.

Further aesthetic improvements to the recently completed space, the exterior and the roughly half of the building currently leased will continue throughout the next year. Dan Vos Construction Co. was the contractor on the project.

“We want the community to come and see the commitment this ownership has shown to this facility,” said Drew Miller, the CB Richard Ellis industrial advisor marketing the property. “It’s really a great space that surpasses many of the buildings recently built.”

In addition to the modern power and lighting, high ceilings, thick floors and upgraded docking infrastructure, the available space also includes a pair of covered rail spurs on the east side of the property that have attracted a great deal of attention from out-of-area interests. At $2.75 a square foot, with operating expenses of 59 cents per square foot, roughly 40 percent below market rate, the facility is also a bargain.

“The operating costs were substantially less than we expected,” said Miller, citing the impact of various tax incentives.

In the limited showings Miller has had with potential tenants in recent weeks, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The property was the first to be developed in the Holland Economic Development Corp.’s industrial park and has become somewhat of a symbol for the lakeshore’s manufacturing losses. Gulker, who in the past has stated doubts that people will “ever look at this building and not see the LifeSavers plant,” is confident that the renovations will help fill out the facility. CQX

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