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Steelcase's sale of iconic pyramid to education group falls apart

Monday 11 May 2015

Plans to turn a pyramid-shaped former Steelcase research facility into an education hub appear to be dead after the reported $7.5 million sale of the building fell through.
How this nearly 18-month deal, for a project dubbed P20 Pyramid, unraveled depends on whom you ask.
Jerry Zandstra contends Steelcase Inc. pulled out of the deal after the Grand Rapids office furniture company got a better offer. The Lowell businessman is the founder of Pyramid Campus Group, the community group behind the proposed education center focused on the skills needed for high-tech fields.
But Zandstra isn't giving up.
"We are focusing on getting Steelcase to honor the deal already made," said Zandstra. "We don't look at this as a dead deal. We look at this as a very much alive deal."
Steelcase disputes Zandstra's description of events, saying it was Zandstra's organization, which is a limited liability company, that pulled out after failing to meet an extended deadline to buy the facility.
When Education Campus Investors, or ECI, did not meet the February deadline for closing the deal as agreed, Steelcase gave the group an additional two months, according to Laura Van Slyke, company spokeswoman.
"In early April, ECI determined that the closing requirements of the agreement could still not be met by the close date of April 30, and decided to terminate the agreement. No further purchase agreement has been executed with ECI since that time," wrote Van Slyke in an email to MLive and the Grand Rapids Press.
Only after the deal fell apart did the company decide to consider other sale options, she added.
"We don't look at this as a dead deal. We look at this as a very much alive deal." -- Jerry Zandstra
"We fully support ECI's mission and vision for the education hub and wish them the best as they also evaluate other options," Van Slyke said.
Initially, Steelcase was going to donate the facility to Zandstra's group, before both sides decided a "straight-up business deal" was simpler than the donation because of clean up issues related to the property
The 7-story facility, opened in 1989 for a price tag of $111 million, went up for sale in 2010 for just $19.5 million -- about $3 million less than its taxable value.

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