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GE testing market for Salem facility

GE testing market for Salem facility

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Perhaps interested in the building newly for sale, a pair of buzzards swooped around an empty parking lot at the former Salem manufacturing center of General Electric on Monday afternoon.

The GE Power facility at 1501 Roanoke Blvd. has been for sale for about two weeks, said Jason Hetherington, senior vice president of CBRE, a real estate services firm.

There is no asking price for the 750,000-square-foot building that opened in 1955. It sits on more than 40 acres of land at the corner of Roanoke Boulevard and Electric Road and has an assessed value of almost $9.3 million, according to Salem's online real estate data.

“They’ve asked us to take it to the market and see what we can get,” Hetherington said. “We’re getting some pretty good interest right now.”

Among the interested parties are local distribution companies, as well as investors who might renovate and reposition the building, updating it to more modern standards, Hetherington said.

In 2019, GE ceased operations manufacturing components of steam and gas turbines and other power plant equipment at the Salem facility, cutting about 260 positions, on top of 42 jobs cut in 2018. 

The company still employs some 300 professionals in southwest Virginia across its power, renewable energy and digital businesses, a company spokesperson said. The spokesperson did not specify how many employees still work at the Salem building. 

"GE will continue to have an employee presence at 1501 Roanoke Blvd. in Salem," the spokesperson said in an email. "We expect to occupy development labs and office areas as tenants to support ongoing work in engineering, sourcing, product management and other functions."

GE only needs about 30,000 square feet, Hetherington said, and the rest of the structure can be used for other business applications, with some renovations likely required.

“One of the challenges you have with this type of building is there’s a fair amount of functional obsolescence associated with it,” Hetherington said. “That’s the challenge you have trying to sell these older manufacturing facilities.”

For example, the building includes 200,000 square feet of office space, he said.

“Most modern-day manufacturers and especially distributors have no need for that type of office space,” he said.

Other additions, such as modernized truck loading bays, might be required, depending on future uses, but there is room for such growth, Hetherington said.

“It’s truly designed as a production facility,” Hetherington said. “The layout has the opportunity to really work if someone were to come in and upgrade the building.”

Even with some renovations likely required, the facility could still create significant savings compared to building a similar structure for $80 to $100 per square foot, he estimated.

“We think there’s going to be a very good value there,” he said. “Probably in the area of $10 to $12 per square foot is what it would go for.”

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