Vectorform is hoping to move into the second floor space of 500 S. Main, which is currently home to Barnes & Noble.
If Kurt Steckling, co-president of Vectorform had his way the company would be settled in by March, but it seems more likely to happen in the summer of 2014, he said.
Vectorform was extended a cash grant offer of $375,000 from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in an effort to maintain the company and its employees in Michigan. One of the grant's requirements is that there be local government participation.
For its show of support, the city approved the sale of 15 parking permits to Vectorform in the desirable P-3 parking lot, which is directly west of the Barnes & Noble site. The city also agreed to provide 75 free parking spaces in lots P-7 and P-8 for one year. Both lots are off Main Street and south of Sixth Street. The parking spaces are valued at $22,500.
Commissioners also approved the installation of two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for the company. The city and Vectorform are exploring ways to get assistance to pay for the EV stations.
Jason Vazzano, co-president of Vectorform, said the company has been searching for a new space with more than 15,000 square feet for approximately six months.
The space at 500 S. Main is desirable for many reasons, including its proximity to restaurants and shops and the fact that the space has an open floor plan. The company plans to invest $2.4 million into fitting out the space so that it can attract top talent to Royal Oak.
The company, whose clients include Microsoft, Walt Disney, New York Times, Estee Lauder, American Express and Nike to name just a few, currently has 125 employees in its five offices. Seattle, New York, Munich and Hyderabad India are the other four locations.
Currently there are 70 employees squeezed into 8,000 square feet of space at 3905 Rochester Rd., the global company's current headquarters. The Barnes & Noble space has 19,500 square feet, enough to double the number of employees in the next three years, according to Vazzano.
Vectorform plans to hold on to its Rochester Road building, which it owns.
Tim Thwing, Royal Oak's director of planning, said 500 S. Main's owner, Tim Blum, has been actively shopping for another tenant for some time.
"It's very clear, from Mr. Blums's standpoint, Barnes & Noble's time is numbered," Thwing said.
Thwing said he's not heard of any plans for the first level at this time.
Steckling and Vazzano said Blum indicated that he would "most likely exercise an early exit" option to remove the bookseller. January, February and March — the months when all the returns come in — are typically the worst months for retail, Vazzano said.
Here's what commissioners had to say
Peggy Goodwin: "I don't feel comfortable giving (the Barnes & Noble's) space to you. You want to move in now. You want to get going now and I don't blame you for that . . . But this, in my mind, is pushing out our anchor retailer."
Mike Fournier: "For me this seems like an opportunity that can help bridge an inevitable store closing."
Kyle DuBuc: "I think it's a complete misconception that we are somehow forcing out Barnes & Noble. . . Consumers are forcing out Barnes & Noble. . . But's that's not even what we are discussing. We're discussing a MEDC grant helping this company leverage a $375,000 grant to build a state-of-the-art (facility) and bring a cutting-edge tech company with a vibrant 150 employee workforce to our city and at a very reasonable cost to us. At the end of the day, we are going to reap much more benefit than we are putting in it."
Sharlan Douglas: "High wage, high tech jobs in the knowledge industry is like the number one priority for Michigan or for any state in terms of economic development . . . And to have them coming to our city and generating that kind of revenue for our city . . . for 75 parking spaces is a no-brainer."
Mike Fournier: "The $2.4 million dollar investment into the property really makes the $22,500 (of free parking worth it.) . . . With that additional $400K coming in, the $2.4 million, we'll make that up real quick. Hopefully in months, not in years, with the increased value of the property."
Jeremy Marhle: "The $22,500 is money we lose in one year but we double in three years. That's money that we're making back...It's very much a net gain for our city."
Dave Poulton: "It's doesn't happen quite often that the state is here, as well as the county, telling us what a good project this is going to be for the region. And I'm here to say this is a good project for the city."
Note: Mayor Jim Ellison was recused, indicating his wife has a professional relationship with Blum. The final vote was 5-1. Goodwin was the lone no.