MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A crumbling piece of furniture industry history in Muskegon may soon change hands.
The former Shaw-Walker Furniture Company building at 920 Washington Ave. is listed for $7.99 million. Muskegon Development Services Director Jake Eckholm says a potential buyer has come forward and the property is under contract.
“(It) hasn’t closed yet but we are optimistic,” he stated in a message to News 8.
Alternative financing firm P&G Holdings NY LLC acquired the property earlier this year. The site overlooks Muskegon Lake and covers roughly an entire city block bordered by W. Western Avenue, Washington Avenue, Franklin Street, Division Street and Michigan Avenue.
“We‘re all kind of waiting in the wings to see what they’ll do,” Eckholm told News 8 last month.
It has been more than 28 years since the Shaw-Walker Furniture Company closed. Developers transformed a portion of the building into 53 condominiums more than 15 years ago. Years later, they added a conference and events center and The Coffee Factory café and deli. An industrial tenant also took over a portion of the 702,420-square-foot space and contractors demolished unsalvageable portions of the building in 2017.
However, a section of the structure remains derelict. Previous proposals to redevelop the empty space all fell apart, including last year’s approved plan to transform the unused area into a medical marijuana grow facility, 150 apartments and some retail spaces. That’s why the Shaw-Walker facility made it onto the Muskegon Housing Board of Appeals’ agenda this month under the “dangerous building” section.
“About 94 windows on the Western and Division-facing sides need boarding and there’s almost always broken glass on the sidewalk,” Eckholm said.
On Aug. 4, the Muskegon Housing Board of Appeals agreed to give P&G Holdings 60 days to meet city building inspector demands to stabilize and secure the building. The work includes removing all the broken windows including glass and metal framing, boarding up the openings, painting the boards and adding a wrap listing the businesses in the redeveloped space, according to Eckholm. He said P&G Holdings has already addressed overgrowth that needed to be removed from the roof.
Eckholm said P&G Holdings was “very understanding and accommodating,” even offering to come in from New York for the hearing. Watermark Center President Sarah Sass, who also worked with the previous building owner, represented the company during the hearing. News 8 reached out to Sass for comment Thursday but has not yet heard back.
Eckholm said P&G Holdings is seeking bids from contractors to do the required work. If the property owner fails to meet the deadline, the property would be declared a dangerous building or public nuisance and the city could take P&G Holdings to court to try to push for building repairs or demolition.
L.C. Walker and Arch W. Shaw joined forces in 1899 to build a company systemizing office workspaces, according to the Grand Rapids Public Museum. They spent $12,000 to construct the then-three-story Shaw-Walker Furniture Company building on land donated by the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce, an archived news clipping from Grand Rapids Public Library shows. The facility opened in 1901, employing 50 workers.
In 1903, Walker left the company to focus on the magazine they had created to explain their filing system. That publication later morphed into Business Week.
Walker began focusing on steel office furniture, outperforming Steelcase at the time, a news article shows. At one time, Shaw-Walker Furniture Company claimed to be the largest exclusive maker of office furniture and filing equipment in the world.
Westinghouse Furniture Systems of Grand Rapids acquired Shaw-Walker in 1989. Five years later, the company moved its manufacturing operations to Norton Shores and closed the Muskegon facility.