Uncertainty about the future of Golden Living jobs in Fort Smith became somewhat less clear Tuesday. Real estate firm CBRE said it is has been hired to sell or lease Golden Living’s 318,000-square foot office and former corporate headquarters building in Fort Smith.
Concerns about the corporate jobs have been around since Beverly Enterprises, the predecessor to Golden Living, was acquired by San Francisco-based Fillmore Capital in 2006 in a $2.2 billion deal. After the publicly held company was taken private, the named changed to Golden Living. In early 2011, the company moved headquarters operations to Plano (Dallas), leaving the Fort Smith facility as its administration center.
The large campus in Fort Smith was completed in the late 1990s as the corporate headquarters for Beverly Enterprises. Beverly Enterprises moved in May 1990 its corporate headquarters from Pasadena, Calif., to Fort Smith. The first building Beverly occupied in Fort Smith was part of the strip mall in the rear of Central Mall.
In 2016, Golden Living sold its Aegis, AseraCare and 360 Staffing service divisions. The company also sold around 140 of its more than 300 nursing home centers. Golden Living then employed about 900 in Fort Smith. Employment is now down to around 400, according to Golden Living spokeswoman Kelli Luneborg-Stern.
In the Tuesday (April 10) announcement, CBRE said the building “offers a wide array of amenities, including: an executive office level; three floors of open, collaborative work space; multiple meeting and training rooms on the first floor; a fitness center; a cafeteria; two existing data centers (one of the first ‘private cloud’ deployments in the U.S.); dual fiber feed; redundant power and communication services; a loading dock; a large parking lot and land available for parking or building expansion.”
David Erstine with CBRE’s Fayetteville office, said the firm will work “closely with community and state leaders to ensure the future of the building is maximized.”
Luneborg-Stern said the company has options if the building is sold.
“If or when a sale takes place, our current plan is that Golden Living would lease a portion of the office space back or relocate the current employees to another space in or around Fort Smith,” she said in a note to Talk Business & Politics.
Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the large, Class A office space is a unique asset for the region.
“The challenge is going to be, we’re a midsize market but we have a 318,000-square-foot, Class A office space and that’s no easy task (to find a buyer),” Allen said.
However, he likened the task to finding buyers for the 1.2 million square foot plant vacated by Whirlpool Corp. in June 2012 and the large manufacturing plant built by Mitsubishi at Chaffee Crossing but never occupied by the company. Those large facilities eventually found buyers. Milwaukee, Wisc.-based Phoenix Investors acquired the main Whirlpool plant in early 2017 to repurpose for multi-tenant use. Employment has not returned anywhere near the more than 4,000 that once worked for Whirlpool in Fort Smith. Glatfelter acquired the Mitsubishi building in early 2016 with plans to employ around 90 when fully renovated. According to Glatfelter, the Fort Smith facility will supply products to a variety of customers, including those in the wipes and hygiene markets. Mitsubishi had planned to employ around 200 in the manufacturing of wind-energy turbines.
Allen also was optimistic about Golden Living’s decision to sell or lease the building, and in keeping jobs in Fort Smith.
“It’s an opportunity for us to go find a good quality company. … We still believe that Golden Living will maintain a footprint in Fort Smith, but we’re just unclear what the size of that will be.”