Treystar Builds Upon The Foundry's History, Revives Legacy
February 17, 2017
Source: Heather Isch
Job Title: President & CEO
Department: LKF Marketing
Three generations of the Brown family are pictured at The Foundry's groundbreaking event on July 21, 2016. From left, Marisa, Spencer, Fritz, Robert and Susan Brown are pictured.
KALAMAZOO, MI - From one Kalamazoo businessman to another, Treystar's work at The Foundry has reinvigorated a local legacy and connected two family businesses in the process. Seven months after the groundbreaking ceremony for the mixed-use property, Fred Buckley II looks back on his family's business, Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Co., which once was located at the site, as Treystar Chairman Robert M. Brown, Sr. forges a new style office space and direction for his family's business.
There are many links between the two families and their businesses beyond sharing a geographic tie to the site at 600 E. Michigan Ave. in the River's Edge District of Kalamazoo. Like artifacts from rounds of renovations unearthed as the development transforms a once-blighted property into modern office space and an on-site restaurant, many of those ties would remain hidden under the surface without a little digging.
Both Buckley and Brown know what it takes to run a family business. In Buckley's case that family business dates back to 1872 and a partnership his great-grandfather, Thomas Buckley, formed. A blacksmith by trade, the elder Buckley partnered with a local machinist named Thomas Wilson to create Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Co. (KFM) on the south side of Eleanor Street between Rose and Church streets. In 1907, the business moved to the Michigan Avenue location.
KFM would go on to employ five generations of the Buckley family before it was sold in 1999. The fourth of those generations, Frederick employed his children as well as his nieces and nephews during their high school and college years, just like his father had before him. He carried the title of President when the business closed.
Tracing its roots to 1969, Treystar is also based on a family business model. Encompassing more than just the blood relatives, the Treystar team has become its own family with many long-term employees. As The Foundry project comes to fruition, Brown is also preparing to pass the redevelopment and leadership of Treystar itself down to his son Fritz, currently Treystar's Head of Office Leasing and Development.
A third generation of the Brown family has also pitched in with Treystar business occasionally much like the fifth generation of the Buckley family did at KFM.
Projects touched by KFM and Treystar are scattered around Kalamazoo much like puzzle pieces waiting to be reassembled. Treystar's various properties dot the city's map including Westwood Plaza at West Main Street and Drake Road, Stadium Drive's University Commons, and the 151 E. Michigan, Haymarket, and Main Street East downtown properties. The newest addition in the River's Edge neighborhood, The Foundry rounds out Treystar's holdings.
A gray iron foundry, machine shop, and structural steel fabricator, KFM's imprint on Kalamazoo and beyond are less noticeable, yet still in use in many cases. Thankfully, Buckley remembers many of the business' biggest and most accomplished projects.
"Many of examples of KFM's work are buried all over Kalamazoo," he said.
From steel beams in downtown buildings, trusses for Portage Central High School's original gym, and hand-riveted girders used to construct the Masonic Temple now known as Rose Street Market, KFM literally had a hand in building Kalamazoo.
"My proudest memory of KFM dates back to the fact that someone in our family was capable of designing the structure for a building back in the 1920s and 1930s," Buckley said.
"We designed the balcony in Chenery Auditorium. It was one of the first cavalier balconies in the state," he said. "For a few years after it opened my grandfather bought a ticket in the balcony for every show just to prove it was safe because people were so afraid to sit up there."
"We also fabricated the structure for the walkway over Rose Street from the Radisson that is still in use today," he said.
With CSM as The Foundry's anchor tenant, Brown is sure that the new project will also have lasting ties to buildings and historical locations yet to be built in the region. In addition to signing on as the first tenant, CSM Group serves as the construction firm for the project.
"This site served Kalamazoo Foundry & Machine Co. well for more than 90 years," Brown said. "We are excited to repurpose the site for CSM and other like-minded organizations and help create a space where individuals, businesses, and organizations can innovate and collaborate to leave their own lasting impressions on the community.
"The Buckley family and its employees stood behind each of their projects and pushed the limits of technology to create ideas and structures ahead of their time," Brown said. "We hope to tap into that same creativity and ingenuity here at The Foundry."
Site plans for the approximately 53,000-square-foot finished project include suites, a shared plaza and patio along Portage Creek, and an on-site restaurant designed to appeal to those who are energetic and rooted in continual community growth, forward-thinking, and successful but not satisfied.
An estimated completion date has tentatively been set for July 2017. Treystar will release additional historical information, connections to The Foundry project, and news about additional tenants and upcoming hires via its Facebook and Twitter accounts over the next three months. Treystar invites the community to share their memories and ties to the site on these channels as well.
Learn more about The Foundry today!
Founded in 1969, Treystar is a relationship-driven Southwest Michigan-based developer and manager of retail and office properties. Focused on real estate investments in Kalamazoo, our team strives to create the best business spaces for our clients.