As the local real estate market picks up steam, there’s some significant activity within a niche market – the sale of giant industrial buildings in the area, including one highly visible building that might just have a new owner.
The enormous former Lear Corporation building at the highly trafficked intersection of South Airport and LaFranier, now owned by Faith Reformed Church, has been for sale for $1.7 million for more than two years. Now the building has a contingent sale pending, though the potential new owners have not yet been identified. The building includes more than 80,000 square feet of space.
Commercial real estate experts say low interest rates, a limited supply and a slightly improving economy have created somewhat of a run on warehouses, manufacturing plants and large office buildings locally, though a few remain.
One of the newest to get listed is the former Grand Traverse County Health Department Building on Garfield Ave., now available for $719,000, though it's is a bit of a "fixer upper."
The building – vacated after the department moved to a new building on LaFranier Road – has just over 18,800 square feet and on-site parking. It was built in 1968, though, so most of the prospective buyers have said they’d have to do major renovations, says Dan Stiebel of Coldwell Banker Schmidt.
“It’s definitely got some challenges,” he says. “Whoever goes in there will have to do some improvements.”
Still, at about $38 per square foot and having been maintained well by the county, he says it’s a “great deal,” as long as the right investor finds it. He said office space generally sells for about $80 to $100 per square foot.
One of the few larger buildings left for sale in town is what was once known as the Glacier Dome on Barlow Street, says David Frost of Three West. The large, non-descript warehouse was an ice rink in the 1970s, and it has the distinction of having hosted concerts by Bob Seger, Rush, and others.
Frost has been trying to interest manufacturers or others who might need a large, open indoor space. Because it started life as a place to skate, it has an open area of about 120 feet by 250 feet.
The Tompkins Boardman Administration building of the Traverse City Area Public Schools on Webster Street has “never technically been for sale,” says Paul Soma, chief financial officer of the district. However, the district has discussed selling the building and moving administrators to a newer building in the district.
TCAPS had the building appraised in 2009 at $1.5 million, though the taxable value has declined since then, Soma says. The building, which was a school when it opened in 1914, is sturdy, but needs some work, Soma says.
“It’s a rock-solid building. If there’s a tornado, that’s where I want to be,” he says. But some updating is needed on the plumbing and electrical systems and other features. The building has nearly 26,000 square feet of floor space.
Meanwhile, the final of three industrial buildings formerly owned by EaglePicher Automotive on Cass Hartman Court in Garfield Township, one with 62,000 square feet of space, was purchased recently by Britten Banners.