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RACER Trust: Empowering America's Auto Communities

Commercial and Industrial Properties That Are Primed for Sale and Development

Crain's Detroit Business Profile of RACER Trust

'I'm not intimidated. I'm excited':
Trust's point man has 89 old GM properties to sell

Crain's Detroit Business

Aug. 8, 2011

By Daniel Duggan

With 89 buildings across the country, funded with $770 million for environmental remediation and upkeep, the RACER Trust and its 44 million square feet of industrial space would be the third-largest real estate investment trust in the country if it were on the New York Stock Exchange.

Instead, it's one of the largest real estate sales and marketing endeavors undertaken in recent history.

Atop the pile of former General Motors Co. factories being marketed for sale is Bruce Rasher, the former broker and former state official now in charge of selling it all.

"I'm not intimidated," he said in the office space RACER uses as a headquarters, crowded with 30,000 boxes of documents and hidden in the 5 million-square-foot Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti. "I'm excited, it's an important process."

The trust, officially called the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, goes back to the General Motors bankruptcy, when the automaker was allowed to put its unwanted properties into a trust.

The trust isn't just charged with selling each property. Rather, it's charged with finding a use that's in line with what individual communities would like to see, strategically, for some major parcels of land across the country.

The Michigan properties include three GM plants in Pontiac, plus other sites in Ypsilanti, Milford, Livonia and Detroit.

Sales aren't just about money

The RACER Trust is headed by Elliott Laws, the Washington, D.C., trustee appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Under him is Rasher and a team of nine employees. Together, they must oversee the environmental cleanup of each property and put together a marketing program for every site.

Rasher brings with him a long background of real estate and political work.

He served two terms as mayor of Marshall from 1995 to 1998 before working in the Southfield office of CB Richard Ellis, managing the North American manufacturing and brownfield specialty practice. He was an executive with Consumers Energy Co. from 1977 to 2008, managing real estate projects and economic development.

He serves as treasurer of the Barrington, Ill.-based National Brownfield Association, is a commissioner on the Great Lakes Commission and is chairman of the board of Oaklawn Hospital in Marshall.

Rasher was asked by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2009 to merge the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The two agencies were later separated again by Gov. Rick Synder.

In finding a new use for the GM buildings, Rasher said it's not just a sale price he's looking for. He follows six criteria laid out in the documents creating the trust. Monetary value, wishes of the local community, degree to which jobs are created, tax revenue, whether a use interferes with environmental cleanup and the reputation of the buyer are all considered.

"The first step is reaching out to every community, both local officials and economic development divisions," he said. "We need to get a clear idea of the guidance and wishes of a community so we can determine how to proceed."

Battle over a battleground

And even that isn't a clear-cut process.

In Fredericksburg, Va., for example, Rasher and his team are trying to develop a plan that works when stakeholders have conflicting opinions.

On one hand, local leaders want to see a manufacturing use to replace jobs lost by GM's plant closure.

On the other hand, the plant is built on the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg in the Civil War. Given the land's significance, the Washington, D.C.-based Civil War Trust has gotten involved, asking to purchase the land and preserve it along with other famous battlefield sites it has purchased and preserved around the country.

On the other extreme, Rasher said, there was a two-hour meeting in Ewing, N.J., and afterward he walked away with a clear plan for another RACER site, 80 acres of vacant land.

"They want the site demolished and they want a transit-oriented, master-planned development there," he said.

Layers of Government

Locally, there are some significant parcels of property in the trust soon to hit the market.

There are 32 RACER properties in Southeast Michigan, of the 57 total properties in Michigan, according to the group's listing.

Sites in Pontiac, Ypsilanti, Milford, Livonia and Detroit are all in the mix. The Flint area has 14, there are five in Saginaw, four in Lansing, one in Bay City and one recently sold in Wyoming. Rasher said his team has been in contact with nearly every level of state, regional and local government along with economic development groups, investors and real estate brokers.

And in many cases, it will take every group working together to come up with the right plan for a site.

The Willow Run Plant, for example, straddles Washtenaw and Wayne counties, involving county officials plus Van Buren and Ypsilanti townships. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has an interest in the future of the site, as does the Wayne County EDGE and Ann Arbor Spark.

Not to mention the Wayne County Airport Authority, which is nearby, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. because of its hub at the airport and the Norfolk, Va.-based Norfolk Southern Corp. which has tracks running adjacent to the site.

"This is a 5 million-square-foot facility on a rail line, near an airport, along major interstates, near the border of Canada, outfitted with major gas lines, electrical systems and water," Rasher said. "It's a significant asset, and we want to optimize its use. Here, a worst-case scenario is to see it torn down for scrap."

Users are hard to find

Finding buyers other than scrappers will be a challenge when old auto plants are put up for sale, said Eugene Agnone III, a broker in the Southfield office of CB Richard Ellis.

Agnone was on the team that sold the former Ford Motor Co./Visteon Corp. Utica Plant in Shelby Township in 2010. After a long marketing process, the only realistic deal was a company interested in having the plant dismantled to sell the parts for scrap.

"There's always pressure to reuse these sites in a way to create more jobs," he said. "But they're just too big, and it winds up that it's not all that feasible."

Nationally, he said, there are a few companies looking for large manufacturing facilities and will take a former plant, such as Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors Inc. and Irvine, Calif.-based Fisker Automotive Inc.

A major problem is the sheer size, he said.

"There aren't many users looking for a 2 million-square-feet facility," he said. "There are plenty looking for 300,000 square feet."

So why not just knock down some and save a corner?

Not so easy, Agnone, said.

In the 1.8 million-square-foot plant in Shelby, he said, there was a newer portion with 300,000 square feet that had the modern amenities, ceiling heights and space between structural columns that industrial users might be looking for.

"We tried to work through ways to split it up and demolish the older portions," he said. "But the utilities all come into one spot and run throughout the plant. There's one water line, one sanitary sewer line. It's expensive to split all that up and reroute it."

The plant is being dismantled now and is slated for demolition during the coming months.

Millions of square feet for sale

Selling the RACER properties is going to have both direct and indirect effects on the local real estate market, said Sue Harvey, senior vice president with New York-based Ashley Capital, which owns 12 million square feet of office and industrial real estate in the region.

If investors buy the sites and create speculative industrial space, it would compete with local investors, she said.

But the largest impact is the sheer amount of space being put on the real estate market.

"Any time you put that much space on the market, it affects all of us," Harvey said.

And, in part, Detroit's perception to the rest of the country of being full of cheap real estate is fostered.

"It sends a message to the people, the out-of-state people, who think that Detroit is one big vacant rusting building where rent is going to be offered at 50 percent of what we think it's worth, that we should be happy to get that."

Staying on top of the process

With a daunting task ahead, the prospect of selling these properties from coast to coast means a chance to repair real and symbolic holes in many communities, said Grant Trigger, cleanup manager for Michigan, also based in the Willow Run offices.

Trigger, who will oversee the environmental remediation process at all of the Michigan properties, said cleanup by itself isn't really the end goal.

"The goal is to help the local communities, not just do a cleanup," he said. "We want to redevelop the properties, and we won't be successful in every case, but that's a goal."

With 7,000 acres of land that includes golf courses, apartments, power plants and wastewater plants -- not to mention 30,000 boxes of documents to accompany the portfolio -- the details are immense, as is the long-term task.

Rasher said the key is to see the bigger picture.

"It might seem overwhelming," he said. "But it's a process. And we're on top of that process."

Daniel Duggan: (313) 446-0414, dduggan@crain.com. Twitter: @d_duggan

Used with permission of Crain's Detroit Business Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Trust makes string of deals in Pontiac

Crain's Detroit Business

Aug. 8, 2011

Bruce Rasher and his team are off to a strong start in Pontiac, with one manufacturing site sold and three others under contract to be sold to a group of investors with a streak of deals there.

A. Alfred Taubman, founder of Bloomfield Hills-based Taubman Centers Inc.; John Rakolta, CEO of Detroit-based Walbridge Aldinger Co.; and Linden Nelson, CEO of Raleigh Michigan Studios, have three former General Motors Co. factories in Pontiac under contract, said Rasher, redevelopment manager for the RACER Trust.

The facilities are adjacent to the studio on Pontiac's Centerpoint campus.

Closings are expected to occur before the end of the year with the group buying the Pontiac Assembly Plant, Centerpoint Central and Centerpoint West, all near Opdyke Road and I-75.

As the trust works through its inventory of 32 former GM factories in metro Detroit, it's making for millions of square feet of real estate deals, such as the Pontiac one.

Rasher would not comment on the sale price or the intentions of the Pontiac buyers. Phone messages and emails from Crain's to all three investors were not returned last week.

A real estate source familiar with the group's plans said they expect to find a manufacturing user to buy the facilities.

Other deals by RACER in Michigan:

  • A subsidiary of Lapeer-based dismantling company North American Dismantling Corp. recently purchased the 730,000-square-foot plant at 220 E. Columbia Ave. in Pontiac.
    The company will sell the raw materials on the site for scrap metal and then plans to market the land for redevelopment, said North American Dismantling principal Rick Marcicki in a press release.
    Work at the 47 acre site will begin later this summer, with the site ready for future development next year.
  • Also involved with a former GM plant is West Bloomfield Township-based Lormax Stern Development Co., which purchased a 2 million-square-foot plant in Wyoming, near Grand Rapids, through a joint venture with the Wyoming Economic Development Authority, an entity similar to a land bank.
    Lormax Stern has a five-year exclusive development agreement to find a user for the site, build the facility and then either lease or sell the land.
    Sale prices on the deals have not been disclosed, but real estate brokers estimate the plants are selling between $1 and $3 per square foot.

-- Daniel Duggan

Used with permission of Crain's Detroit Business Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

2/22/2017 - RACER Trust, George W. Auch Company Complete Transfer of University Drive Property in Pontiac, Mich.

2/9/2017 - RACER Trust, Rivore Metals, LLC, Reach Agreement on Sale of Industrial Property in Pontiac, Mich.

1/20/2017 - RACER Trust, Michigan DNR Reach Agreement on Transfer of Riverfront Property in Saginaw

12/20/2016 - RACER Trust, Commonwealth Development Corporation of American Reach Agreement on Sale of Land in Muncie, Ind.

12/19/2016 - RACER Trust Sells Interest in Pontiac Centerpoint Business Campus

12/1/2016 - RACER Trust Sells Property in Muncie, Ind., to M&M Bus Co., Inc.

11/22/2016 - RACER Trust, NorthPoint Development Reach Agreement for Sale of Lansing-Area Industrial Land

11/10/2016 - RACER Trust Completes Sale of Former GM Willow Run Property for Redevelopment as American Center for Mobility

7/27/2016 - RACER Trust Sells Property in Anderson, IN, to Tower Anderson, LLC

7/22/2016 - NorthPoint Development Bringing More Jobs to KCK

7/18/2016 - Agreement Reached on Willow Run Purchase

6/21/2016 - RACER Trust to Seek New Proposals for Purchase, Redevelopment of Prime Property Near Downtown Indianapolis

5/17/2016 - RACER Trust, George W. Auch Company Reach Agreement On Sale of University Drive Property in Pontiac, Mich.

5/10/2016 - RACER Trust Announces Sale of Vacant Land in Pontiac, Mich., to HB Dynamics

5/4/2016 - U.S. EPA Issues Community Update on Massena Cleanup

4/14/2016 - Ohio EPA Issues Covenant Not to Sure for Former RACER Trust Property in Ontario, OH

2/23/2016 - EPLET, LLC, to Continue Service as Administrative Trustee of RACER Trust

1/5/2016 - RACER Trust, Ross Community Center, Inc., Complete Sale of Land in Muncie, IN

11/17/2015 - RACER Trust, Ross Community Center, Inc., Reach Agreement for Sale of Land in Muncie, IN

9/15/2015 - RACER Trust, Ashley Capital Complete Sale of Industrial Land in Livonia, MI

9/9/2015 - U of M Video Highlights Partnership with RACER

6/8/2015 - RACER Trust Announces Sale of Flint Warehouse; More than 200 Jobs Expected

05/28/2015 - Remedial activities resume in Massena

4/29/2015 - RACER Trust Completes Sale of Property in Anderson, IN; Site to be Used by Sirmax North America for Manufacturing

3/20/2015 - U.S. Commercial Service, AmCham Canada, RACER Trust Welcome Canadian Business Leaders for Reception

3/19/2015 - RACER Trust Hires Terradex to Provide Environmental Monitoring Services

2/24/2015 - RACER-Sponsored Student Design Team Wins International Recognition for Research on Sustainable Remediation

2/6/2015 - Resources from SelectUSA

01/15/2015 - Sharing in Good News for Anderson, IN

1/13/2015 - RACER Trust Sells Vacant Land for Redevelopment in Detroit

12/17/2014 - RACER Trust Reaches Agreement with IRG for Sale of Buildings and Land in Pontiac, MI

12/10/2014 - RACER Trust Reaches Agreement with Ashley Capital for Sale of Industrial Land in Livonia, MI

12/02/2014 - RACER Trust Announces Sale to Wayne State University

11/24/2014 - RACER Trust Sells Land in Flint, MI, to Kettering University

11/10/2014 - RACER Trust, NorthPoint Development Agree to Terms for Sale of Industrial Land in Lordstown, OH

10/30/2014 - RACER Trust Announces 10-Year Lease Extension with Roth Global in Salina Industrial Powerpark

09/25/2014 - Brownfields 2015 Brings Focus on Sustainability and Redevelopment to Chicago

09/18/2014 - RACER Trust Honors Perras Environmental Control for Safe, Successful Remediation Work in Massena

9/11/2014 - Lennar Breaks Ground in Ewing

8/26/2014 - AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company Begins Redevelopment of Buick City

8/7/2014 - M1 Concourse Completes Purchase in Pontiac

8/6/2014 - RACER Trust Completes Sale of Former GM CVO Facility to International Turbine Industries

8/6/2014 - CVO Remediation Team Earns EPA Honor

8/4/2014 - RACER Trust Announces Agreement to Sell Former GM Indianapolis Plant Property to REI Investments

8/4/2014 - How Do Detroit's Parolees Fit into the City's Revitalization?

7/29/2014 - How Much Cleaning Up Brownfields is Really Worth

7/29/2014 - The Perfect Partner for Closed Landfills?

7/13/2014 - RACER Trust is Working to Bring Jobs to Toledo

6/23/2014 - Yankee Air Museum Signs Deal for Part of Willow Run Bomber Plant

4/21/2014 - Rebirth of America's Dead Factories

4/1/2014 - Carl Garvey Named General Counsel of RACER Trust

3/6/2014 - RACER Trust Announces Sale of Former GM Livonia Powertrain Plant to Schostak Brothers & Company

2/4/2014 - Mayor Bert Steinmann and the Ewing Township Redevelopment Agency Announce Designation of Lennar Ewing, LLC as Redeveloper for Portion of Parkway Avenue Redevelopment Area

1/15/2014 - Statement from RACER Trust Regarding Donation of Land to City of Anderson, IN

12/09/2013 - RACER Trust Honors D.A. Collins Environmental Services for Successful Completion and 58,000 Safe Work Hours on Massena, N.Y., Project

11/13/2013 - AMERICAN Brings New Investment, Jobs to Flint, MI

11/1/2013 - Plans for $250 million project, up to 800 jobs at former GM site in Moraine, Ohio, ’The home run we have been looking for.’ “

9/30/2013 - NorthPoint, RACER Trust Close Sale in Kansas City, KS; Development Projects Will Create Up to 2,000 New Jobs

09/05/2013 - Connected Vehicle Research Center Planned on Site of Former Willow Run Powertrain Plant

08/08/2013 - RACER Trust Seeking Proposals from Qualified Firms for Redevelopment of Indianapolis Stamping Plant Site

08/01/2013 - Rosie the Riveter's factory gets 2-month reprieve

08/01/2013 - 'Rosie the Riveter' World War Two Bomber Plant Needs $8 Million to Live on as Museum

07/31/2013 - Michigan Aerospace Foundation, Yankee Air Museum and RACER Trust Announce Extension of the Fundraising Deadline for Former B-24 Plant at Willow Run

6/7/2013 - Former Indianapolis Stamping Plant to be Marketed as Vacant Land

6/6/2013 - Fox-47 Coverage of RACER Community Meeting in Lansing, MI

5/23/2013 - M1 Concourse to Buy RACER Land in Pontiac, MI, Develop Destination for Car Enthusiasts

5/16/2013 - RACER Trustee Elliott Laws Receives National Brownfield Leadership Award

4/24/2013 - RACER Trust Working with Yankee Air Museum On Deal for Portion of Willow Run Powertrain Property

04/17/2013 - RACER Trust, Ultimate Soccer Arenas Reach Agreement on Deal for Land in Pontiac, MI

4/02/2013 - Aircraft Maintenance Firm Buying Willow Run CVO Facility; Sale is Expected to Result in Creation of 25 Jobs

3/22/2013 - Sale and Redevelopment of RACER Trust Site in Kansas City, KS, Means 2,000 New Local Jobs

2/7/2013 - RACER Trust Awards Major Cleanup Contract for Former GM Site in Massena, NY, to Local Firm

1/30/2013 - Ewing Township, RACER Trust Agree On Unified Marketing Approach for Former GM Property

1/3/2013 - Elio Motors to Buy Former GM Plant in Shreveport, Expects to Employ 1,500 by end of 2015

12/28/2012 - RACER Trust Completes Sale of Former GM Facility in Ohio to Major Development Company

11/28/2012 - Redeveloping Former GM Sites for New Job-Creating Uses

11/28/2012 - Plans 'On Track' for Sale of Former GM Plant

10/31/2012 - Former GM Assembly Plant in Pontiac Sold for New Industrial Development

10/31/2012 - RACER sells Fiero Assembly plant in Pontiac to Lapeer-based company

10/19/2012 - Event showcases Massena to Canadian companies

9/28/2012 - Marketplace Highlights RACER Mission

9/24/2012 - Former GM Plant Near Shreveport, La., Offers Prime Opportunity for New Investment, Jobs

8/17/2012 - GM Pact Signed, Work Begins to Bring 1,100 Jobs

8/17/2012 - Ontario Council Signs GM Site Development Pact

8/17/2012 - New Plans For Previous GM Plant

8/17/2012 - Ohio Company To Buy Former GM Plant, Bring 1,100 Jobs to Area

8/16/2012 - Major Development Firm Reaches Agreement On Purchase Of Former GM Facility

8/16/2012 - RACER Trust Announces Deal to Sell GM Stamping Plant in Ontario to Brownfield Communities Development Co.

8/16/2012 - Developer Has Big Plans for GM Site in Ontario

8/16/2012 - Filling Building Will Generate Tax Revenues

8/16/2012 - Purchase Agreement Signed for Ex-GM Plant

8/16/2012 - Real Estate Firm to Buy Ex-GM Ohio Plant

8/16/2012 - Richland County: Redeveloped GM Plant to Bring 1,100 Jobs

8/16/2012 - Firm Heading Former GM Site Redevelopment to Sell Ohio Stamping Plant

8/16/2012 - Sale Of Former Ontario General Motors Plant Announced

8/16/2012 - Brownfield Communities Development Buys Ex-GM Facility in Ohio

7/30/2012 - Potential Advantages of Reusing Potentially Contaminated Land for Renewable Energy

7/27/2012 - Repurposing Former Automotive Manufacturing Sites

7/26/2012 - RACER Trust and UEP Detroit Team Up to Provide Opportunities for Minority Entrepreneurs

7/18/2012 - RACER Trust and Goodwill’s Green Works, Inc., Partner to Promote Recycling and Create Job Opportunities in Southeast Michigan

6/28/2012 - RACER Trust looks to convene new industrial activity across a huge portfolio of former GM properties

6/27/2012 - Former Bay City Official Joins RACER Trust Team

6/22/2012 - 'Rosie the Riveter' Bomber Plant in Michigan for Sale

6/21/2012 - Ex-GM Plants for Sale; Must Create Jobs

6/21/2012 - AnnArbor.com: Open House Showcases Former GM Properties

6/21/2012 - Forbes, Jalopnik.com highlight RACER

6/21/2012 - Detroit Free Press: RACER Trust Has Prospects for Buick City Property

6/20/2012 - Detroit News: 'Old' GM sites put to use

6/20/2012 - RACER Event Focused on Jobs, Redevelopment Draws More Than 200 to Willow Run

6/19/2012 - RACER Trust Open House Wednesday at Willow Run Features U.S. Government’s Jay Williams, Mathy Stanislaus

6/12/2012 - Mathy Stanislaus, EPA Assistant Administrator, to Participate in RACER Trust Open House June 20

6/7/2012 - Jay Williams is the Featured Speaker at June 20 RACER Open House

5/10/2012 - RACER Trustee Elliott Laws Presents at Federal Reserve Bank Conference "Reinventing Older Communities"

2/14/2012 - RACER Trust's Bruce Rasher named Chairman, President and CEO of National Brownfield Association

2/13/2012 - Spotlight: Anderson Plant Lighted the Way For GIs

2/8/2012 - RACER's Bruce Rasher appears on Green Sense Radio Show

1/17/2012 - RACER Trust Honors Brandenburg Industrial Service Co. for Safe Work Performance at Massena Site

1/16/2012 - Spotlight: From Red Brick Factory Walls to Golf Course Green

12/26/2011 - Flint Journal reports: Multiple companies discussing buying part of Buick City

12/8/2011 - NY Times Story: Developers Revive Closed Auto Plants

12/8/2011 - Spotlight: Syracuse Industrial PowerPark - From Parts To Multi-Manufacturing

12/5/2011 - RACER Trust Engages Tetra Tech to Continue Ontario Property Cleanup

11/3/2011 - Former White House Aide Joins RACER Trust Team

11/1/2011 - Industrial Contractor Buys Former
GM Facility in Pontiac to Expand Operations

10/24/2011 - RACER Official to Lead National Conference Panel on Investment Opportunities

10/12/2011 - Spotlight: Ewing Plant Built Avenger Bombers

9/13/2011 - Spotlight: Rosie the Riveter Worked at Willow Run

8/12/2011 - Massena Incident Won't Slow RACER Progress

8/9/2011 - Crain's Detroit Business Profile of RACER Trust

7/25/2011 - Former GM Property in Pontiac to be Redeveloped

7/8/2011 - MEDA Annual Meeting

7/6/2011 - RACER Sells Facilities in Ohio, Michigan

6/28/2011 - Former MI Official Selected for Key Role at RACER

6/20/2011 - Veteran Economic Development Leader Directing RACER Redevelopment Initiative

6/20/2011 - Rasher to address Michigan Economic Developers Association Conference

6/13/2011 - RACER Participates In Mayor's Automotive Coalition Webinar

5/10/2011 - Bruce Rasher Provides Expert Analysis

4/29/2011 - Important Announcement Concerning Environmental Contractors

4/5/2011 - Laws Presents at Brownfields

3/31/2011 - RACER Trust Formation Announced

10/20/2010 - US: Settlement with GM on Environmental Liabilities

10/20/2010 - US Settles With GM on Environmental Liabilities

10/20/2010 - White House Announces Trust to Cleanup and Repurpose 89 Former GM Properties