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From Site Selection magazine, March 2011

The Pyramid Proposal

As Steelcase prepares to move out of its Corporate Development Center,
a landmark Grand Rapids building beckons new users.


teelcase Inc., a company well known for changing the interior look of office space around the world, has placed its own signature office space on the market.

The 663,671-sq.-ft., pyramid-shaped Steelcase Corporate Development Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is for sale, as the company turns a page of history that is synonymous with process-based design.

"We moved into this building in 1989," says Jim Lawler, director of global facilities and real estate for Steelcase, one of the largest manufacturers of office furniture in the world. "This is the first building designed around a process instead of an organization for Steelcase. We worked with Frank Becker of Cornell, Fritz Steele of Portsmouth Consulting Group in Cambridge (Mass.), and Thomas Allen out of MIT. They helped us better understand the product development process, and out of that work came the Pyramid."

Located in Gaines Township in Kent County, the Pyramid stands as the signature corporate office and research and development facility in all of western Michigan. The six-story building constructed on 125-plus acres has served the product development needs of Steelcase for more than two decades.

Soon, it will serve the needs of another company.

"Steelcase is moving to our main campus in Grand Rapids," says Lawler. "Our business model has changed dramatically. Being a global company, all of our product development activities are scattered around the world now. The Pyramid no longer supports the Steelcase model."

Van W. Martin, CCIM, SIOR, CRE, senior managing director for CB Richard Ellis, the commercial real estate firm marketing the building, says, "We are looking for someone to purchase the property. We are not ruling out a lease; we would entertain that option as well. We have an institutional-grade facility that is one of a kind. It is an outstanding facility that is truly a unique design. It is a great opportunity for a corporate occupier who is looking to expand."

In addition to its pyramid-shaped design, the Steelcase Corporate Development Center offers several other unique amenities. The central atrium features a five-story rotating pendulum suspended over a reflective water pool. Vaulted ceilings and expansive windows throughout the building, combined with exterior balconies, provide an open and spacious workplace that makes liberal use of natural light.

The building has 333,000 sq. ft. of office space and 242,000 sq. ft. of research and development space.

Other on-site amenities include a 14,995-sq.-ft. full-service cafeteria, 12,500-sq.-ft. data center, 8,351-sq.-ft. two-story photo studio, exercise and locker rooms, card-access security, on-site video surveillance and 1,014 parking spaces.

"The unique design of the building sets it apart from all other facilities," says Martin. "The infrastructure of the building itself is institutional grade. The HVAC, fire safety, electrical and UPS systems, and data center are all state of the art. All telecommunications and information technology infrastructure are there, including both fiber optic and copper. AT&T and Verizon both provide service to the building."

Martin says target prospects are "companies that are technology related such as life-science firms, defense contractors, research and development organizations, and educational users, amongst others. We are literally conducting a global marketing campaign for this property. We are using CB Richard Ellis offices around the world as points of entry for this information."

A strong selling point, he adds, is the fact that the property is located in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area. "Grand Rapids is as good as any market in the country to live and work," he notes. "It consistently ranks among the best places to live in America. It ranks 13th in the World Knowledge Competitive Index; it ranks among the best 20 mid-sized cities for tele-working; it ranks No. 1 in homeownership; and it ranks No. 1 with more LEED certified buildings per capita than any other city in the country."

Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications for The Right Place, Inc., the economic development organization for the Grand Rapids area, says that one of Grand Rapids' strongest assets is its extensive base of intellectual capital.

"Grand Rapids has over 72,000 students in 20 colleges and universities in west Michigan," Mroz says. More than 30 percent of the local work force has an associate's degree or higher.

Mroz adds that with more than half of the area's 1.3 million residents under the age of 35, companies can draw from a large pool of young, college-educated workers.

The Grand Rapids metro area is home to four Fortune 1000 companies and three firms on the list of Forbes Largest Private Companies.

The region is ranked No. 7 nationally in the biopharmaceuticals industry due to the presence of the Van Andel Research Institute, which ranks third in the Midwest in obtaining research funding.

West Michigan's average commute time of 21 minutes is below the national average and ranks as the lowest commute time among all U.S. communities with populations above 1 million.

Jeff Carpenter, director of global real estate for Steelcase, says the Pyramid also makes sense logistically. "It is very close to the highways and the airport," he says. "It is located in a very nice suburban setting and is only a couple of miles from the airport. Medical and educational institutions would be a perfect fit for this facility, as would virtually any high-tech company. We have not set a minimum size for an occupier. We have a large, multi-use office and research and development facility, and we will not rule out anything."

Steelcase expects to completely vacate the building by late 2012, but Carpenter says, "If we found the buyer tomorrow, we could make the deal work. It is a great building in a great location, and it is very well known. All of the Fortune 100 companies have visited the building at one time or another, so they know this facility very well."

Martin adds that "this building has all of the elements that any corporate occupier would need. It is extremely close to many colleges and universities, which means there are a lot of educated workers in this area."

This Property Profile was prepared under the auspices of CB Richard Ellis. For more information on the Steelcase Corporate Development Center, contact Van W. Martin, CCIM, SIOR, CRE, of CBRE at 517-319-9241 or by email at

Story in Pictures

The Pyramid’s four corner entrances converge in a stunning five-story central atrium with an open center design.
All photos courtesy of Steelcase Inc.
Click for a larger view.
Click for a larger view.
Click for a larger view.

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