Whirlpool plant building lands a buyer

An investment group from Wisconsin has purchased the largest building in the long vacant Whirlpool plant complex in Fort Smith, with plans to renovate the space to eventually operate as a hub for other companies.

The 1.5 million-square-foot building on Jenny Lind Road, which includes 300,000 square feet of mezzanine space, has been on the market since the Whirlpool plant closed in 2012. Phoenix Investors of Milwaukee closed on the building last week. The terms of the deal were not released.

David Marks, managing director of Phoenix Investors, said in an interview Tuesday that plans are to renovate the building with the intent to lease it to multiple tenants who are likely in the distribution or manufacturing sectors. He said the Fort Smith property comes as part of a three-property deal that Phoenix Investors made with Whirlpool, including holdings in Tennessee and Indiana.

He said the Fort Smith property was attractive, in part, because it is in a good industrial market, has high ceilings and 70 loading docks.

"The bones of this particular building set up well for redevelopment," he said.

He said work on the property would likely kick into gear in the next few months.

Phoenix Investors has a portfolio of properties that extends across 22 states made up of about 17 million square feet of commercial properties, according to the company's website.

Tim Allen, president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he has hopes to help fill the space as soon as possible with employers looking to settle in Fort Smith.

"I have projects that need large, quality space," he said.

In June 2012, appliance-maker Whirlpool shut down its Fort Smith plant, resulting in the loss of about 800 jobs. The plant produced trash compactors, ice makers and three types of side-by-side refrigerators. At its peak, the plant employed 4,600 workers.

In October 2014, Ohio-based Spartan Logistics finalized its purchase of Whirlpool Corp.'s 680,000-square-foot warehouse in Fort Smith, which is also on Jenny Lind Road. Today, the entire space is leased and is the home of FFO Home's corporate headquarters and its mattress manufacturing operation, and provides warehouse and logistical space for Mars Pet Care and Owens Corning.

Earlier this month, heating and air-conditioning company Trane Inc. said it was closing its residential manufacturing plant in Fort Smith, leaving 250 employees out of work when it eventually closes its doors. The company said it is moving production to four other U.S. plants. Trane's Commercial HVAC plant in Fort Smith, which employs about 150, will remain in operation. Trane is owned by Ireland-based Ingersoll Rand.

Business on 02/22/2017