MONROE — When La-Z-Boy Inc. began searching for locations for a new world headquarters, company chief executive officer Kurt Darrow said he asked his wife, Renee, where she thought they ought to relocate.
“She said, ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I'm not moving,’ ” Mr. Darrow said, eliciting laughter from civic leaders, La-Z-Boy employees, and others gathered inside a tent in an open field in Monroe on Thursday to see the furniture company’s top executives break ground on the $57 million headquarters project, which is scheduled for completion no later than early 2015.
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The 200,000-square-foot building will be constructed on a 40-acre site, surrounded by an oak savannah, that is part of a larger 120-acre parcel that La-Z-Boy bought from the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic religious order based in Monroe. The sisters’ campus is less than a mile east of Monroe-based La-Z-Boy’s existing headquarters on North Telegraph Road.
The new headquarters will be on the south side of Stewart Road, between North Monroe and Lavender streets.
When finished, the three-story headquarters is expected to create an additional 50 jobs and retain 450 others. And on Thursday, Mr. Darrow announced that the company would expand its regional presence by opening three new La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries stores in the Detroit area by Christmas.
During Thursday’s event, Mr. Darrow, who also is company chairman and president, thanked state and government officials for their assistance in expediting the project, and acknowledged that, like his wife, he too felt there was no place else that the company should be but in Monroe, where two-thirds of its employees reside.
“We did look elsewhere. There were other sites in town, and some out of town, that we looked at,” Mr. Darrow said. “We had a third party searching for us under another name,” he added. But nothing available fit the company’s desires, and when he learned that the Immaculate Heart sisters were interested in selling part of their campus, La-Z-Boy officials made the site their first choice.
“We could have stayed on Telegraph longer if we had to,” Mr. Darrow said. But with the Immaculate Heart site available, the company made it a priority, he said.
Fortunately, the CEO said, La-Z-Boy officials and the sisters “had similar beliefs about sustainability” — the furniture maker will build a LEED-certified headquarters.
And Sister Mary Jane Herb, president of the Immaculate Heart sisters, said that La-Z-Boy’s commitment to preserve the decades-old oak savannah persuaded the religious order to sell its land.
“We will be good stewards of your property and we will make sure our organization lives up to the commitments of your order,” Mr. Darrow promised during the event.
The company has been at the same site on North Telegraph Road for 85 years. No decision has been made on what La-Z-Boy will do with that building, Mr. Darrow said.
“Telegraph has evolved into a retail corridor, and perhaps the property could be redeveloped into retail,” he said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.