Thirty Eight ready to break office barrier

January 14, 2011
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Just as Bridgewater Place made a big impression on the downtown office market 18 years ago, Thirty-Eight may be in the process of a similar achievement this year.

When Bridgewater Place opened in 1993, it pushed the office market to the west by becoming the first business address on the “other” side of the Grand River. When Thirty-Eight welcomes its newest tenant in a few months, the market’s development will move in another direction: south.

The move will signify the first time a leading national firm — namely Deloitte — will cross an invisible but long-standing barricade to office development downtown.

“From our perspective, we’re excited to have Deloitte moving into the project. It’s not only a validation for the Thirty-Eight project, but it’s also a validation that larger corporations are moving further south in the downtown area and breaking that Fulton Street barrier,” said John Green, a principle with Andy Winkel in Locus Development, which owns Thirty-Eight.

“You look at GRid70, for instance, which has drawn in four major corporations,” said Green of Amway, Meijer, Wolverine and Steelcase’s training space at 70 Ionia Ave. SW. “Now we have Deloitte. It’s validation that we’re doing good things in this neighborhood.”

Accounting, auditing, tax-planning and financial consulting firm Deloitte LLP had sales of $10.9 billion and 100 offices nationwide in 2010. The privately held company’s West Michigan practice will leave the seventh floor at Bridgewater Place this spring and relocate to the fifth and sixth floors of 38 Commerce SW.

Deloitte signed an 11-year lease for 12,000 square feet of space. Green said the firm will begin its move when the tax season winds down, probably in late April.

“The space needs to be built out between now and then. It will be commencing very shortly,” he said.

Lou Moran, managing partner of Deloitte’s West Michigan practice, said the company will move about 90 employees from Bridgewater Place to Thirty-Eight. Moran said the firm looked at different spaces in town while remaining committed to staying in downtown, and found Thirty-Eight to be the right space.

“It really was a new building that has been LEED certified. And it’s a building that fits well for an open and collaborative work environment that we now are looking to build out,” he said.

Moran also said the foreclosure situation at Bridgewater Place had nothing to do with Deloitte’s plan to move

“We started this process six or seven months ago, looking at alternatives. Really, it has more to do with the fact that we think 38 Commerce is the place we want to be. Again, it really avails itself to be the next-generation workspace, which is an open and collaborative environment,” said Moran.

“As I told (Green and Winkel), the day of the corner office in professional services is a thing of the past, and 38 Commerce is just a cool building,” he said.

Deloitte’s national managing partner for field operations, Mary Ellen Rodgers, said the move will allow the firm to address a client’s business challenges from an “enterprise-wide view” that considers strategy, operations, technology and human capital.

“Our new workspace is about more than great space; it’s about accelerating our distinct business model. The more our different disciplines come together to talk about a client’s issue from different viewpoints, the more effective we are as a professional services organization,” said Rodgers in a press release.

The lease agreement with Locus Development also gives Deloitte space for signage on the building’s exterior. “We are clearly one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I do think that having Deloitte going into 38 Commerce is a powerful statement, and I think it will enhance further development activity in that area,” said Moran.

Deloitte will join and Locus Development as tenants in Thirty-Eight, a mixed-use, two-building development at the corner of Commerce Avenue and Weston Street SW.

“We are getting very, very close to signing a lease with a restaurant operator for the first floor and the rooftop,” said Green. “They will be opening up in late spring or early summer, so really all that we’ll have left is about a floor-and-a-half in the building.”

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