Former IP building draws interest

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, January 19, 2011

International Paper Co.'s former Converting Innovation Center on General Thomas Highway is on the market for $6.8 million.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the second in a series of stories about what’s happening with some of the vacant commercial buildings in Western Tidewater.

FRANKLIN—International Paper Co.’s former Converting and Innovation Center building on General Thomas Highway is vacant for now, but it’s drawing interest from prospective buyers, according a local economic development official.

The building is listed with Cushman & Wakefield|Thalhimer for $6.89 million.

“Having an existing building of the quality of the International Paper building allows you to market it to a lot of different kinds of projects,” said John Smolak, president and chief executive officer of Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.

The building was constructed in the 1990s and served as a high-tech cutting and packaging facility for IP. It was vacated in June 2010. Smolak said the building has been submitted to several different prospects.

“It’s very suitable for many of them, so we’re very pleased that we have that kind of a building that we can be competitive for some of those projects,” he said.

Thalhimer agent Sam Walker said the company is marketing the building collaboratively with state and local economic development officials.

“The property works very well for a wide variety of manufacturing and production uses,” he said.

The facility is attractive to prospective buyers for a number of reasons, Smolak said. It has about 155,000 square feet, including about 6,600 square feet of office space. The rest could be used for warehousing and distribution or manufacturing.

Located on 40 acres, the building can be expanded to more than 400,000 square feet.

The building also lies within an enterprise zone, or a designated area in which state and local incentives are available to help stimulate job creation and private investment. The building has easy access to U.S. Route 58 and a rail line runs behind it.

“That building is pretty flexible; it could either be warehousing and distribution or it could be manufacturing,” Smolak said. “Either one would suit it very well.”

Walker said he has seen interest from potential buyers locally and from outside the area.

“This is one of those rare facilities where an out of the area user could come to a location like Franklin and just literally move into the building, probably with very little additional effort, and be up and running in a short period of time,” he said.