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Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2003

Investor wants to buy Davol plant

Developer aims to attract up to six firms

March 13, 2003

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A Kansas City-area investor has agreed to purchase Davol Inc.'s Lawrence manufacturing facility, which is expected to close in May, and redevelop it into a multitenant industrial and office complex.

Mark Fountain, real estate agent with Kansas City, Mo.-based Fountain Properties, said an investor who specialized in redeveloping large industrial buildings in smaller communities had signed a contract to purchase the 211,211-square-foot building at 700 E. 22nd St.

Fountain declined to identify the buyer until the deal was completed. The closing likely will take place in late spring or early summer. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Fountain said the developer became interested in the building shortly after Davol announced in August that it was closing the plant, which manufactures and sterilizes several medical devices used in surgical procedures.

Fountain said the investor planned to divide the building into as many as six spaces that would accommodate a mixture of manufacturing, warehousing and office uses.

"This type of development is really this guy's specialty," Fountain said. "I think it could be a pretty good development for Lawrence. This is probably the best thing that could happen to the building."

Area economic development officials admitted they were concerned about the future of the building because only a limited number of companies are looking to buy a used building as large as the Davol plant.

"We were concerned, especially with the national economy being sluggish, about how we were going to fill a building that large," said Lynn Parman, vice president of economic development for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

The investor doesn't have any tenants signed up for the building, but Fountain said it should be much easier to find five or six tenants who need 30,000 or 40,000 square feet than it would be to find one who needs the entire building.

"If you were waiting for one single user to come along, that building could be sitting empty for three or four years, and you really don't want that to happen," Fountain said.

Parman agreed. She said chamber statistics showed that only about 5 percent of all companies considering moving to Lawrence need space of 200,000 square feet or more. Half the companies considering Lawrence are looking for space of 75,000 square feet or less.

Holly Glass, a spokeswoman for Davol's parent company, C.R. Bard, said the company had laid off about 90 Lawrence workers since the closing was announced in August. She said the remaining 40 workers would be released by the first week of May.

The company decided to close the plant, which has been in operation since 1960, as part of a restructuring plan expected to save $20 million a year.

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