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OKLAHOMA CITY-A developer that specializes in retrofitting old factories for contemporary industrial use has purchased the 2.59-million-sf Bridgestone/Firestone tire plant for what is rumored to be a bargain price. Although the principals are declining to reveal how much it cost to buy, local sources indicate Big Industrial LLC of Prairie View, KS picked up the 300-acre property for less than $10 per sf and possibly as low as $6 per sf.

One of the region’s largest employment centers, the plant at 2500 S. Council Rd. was built in 1969 for Dayton Tire Co. More recently it was owned and operated by Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC, which shut it down last December and hired Philadelphia-based Binswanger to find a buyer.

According to Eric Dienstbach, a senior vice president in Binswanger’s Denver office, who headed the sales team, the marketing strategy focused on investor-developers. “With a factory of that size and type in today’s market, the likelihood of finding a user was pretty remote,” he says.

Dienstbach tells about a half-dozen prospects showed interest in the property, but only three pursued it and of those only two made serious bids: Big Industrial and Wichita, KS-based Ablah Enterprises Inc. The former won not only because it offered the most money, but also because it seemed more capable of closing in the current calendar year.

“We were interested in eliminating as many contingencies as possible during the due diligence to be sure we had a deal that would go through,” Dienstbach says. “Big Industrial was very cooperative in that regard.”

According to Ben Shmidt, a broker with Big Industrial who leads the property’s leasing effort, the plan is to redevelop it into a multi-tenant facility for a mix of warehouse, distribution and manufacturing tenants. Big Industrial will demolish some parts of the existing complex and renovate others. A 300,000-sf center section will be torn down and replaced by a truck court, with loading docks inserted into the surrounding structures. The resulting product will total about 2.1 million sf.

Shmidt says Big Industrial already has begun power washing the plant and will begin rehabbing it “in earnest” in January. It has been renamed Will Rogers Business Park.

The Big Industrial broker pegs asking rents at $1.99 per sf to $3.50 per sf, depending on use and level of finish. “The market is a bit tight,” Shmidt says. “There are not a lot of large spaces on the market. We think the building will address that need.”

Among the property’s major attractions after renovation, Shmidt lists 24-foot ceiling heights, truck bays and loading docks, on-site rail access to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and its proximity to Interstate 35, Interstate 40 and Will Rogers World Airport. In addition, the factory has an on-site c-generation, natural gas-fired power plant. Tenants may qualify for subsidized heating, cooling or process energy. Shmidt says the site also has about 150 undeveloped acres available for build-to-suit projects.

“We expect this renovation will bring significant jobs, expansion and economic development to Oklahoma City,” says Big Industrial principal Daniel E. Smith. “We expect to attract businesses from not only Oklahoma but across the country, with more than two million sf of industrial space that can be finished for individual company requirements.”

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