Century-old Building Is New

April 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Century Business Center is open for business.

De Vries Companies recently finished restoring the century-old building at 620 Century SW for office use, and has 18,000 of its 30,000 square feet already occupied. Voice Data Systems, DuPont Services, roi Technology and Tickets PLUS Inc. are operating in the structure that first opened in 1901.

Brothers Edward and Timothy Mosely built it back then to store and distribute fruit and grocery items, as the building was located near the railroad tracks. Today, the building houses companies that run on information technology tracks and is near the Franklin Street exit of U.S. 131.

It’s also situated in the city’s Renaissance Zone, which means that tenants won’t be responsible for paying many of the state and local taxes that most businesses pay. Personal property and Single Business taxes are exempted for these companies for years to come. City commissioners gave the building that nearly tax-free status last year.

“We’re happy that the city is willing to work in older areas like this and on older buildings, because that really becomes part of the program to help put all these things together. We need some of those extra incentives, and the city works very well on things like that with developers,” said Ed De Vries, a principal in the firm.

“There is a certain amount of risk when you work in a fringe area and an old building that takes a lot of money to restore,” he said.

De Vries Companies bought the building three years ago and spent about 18 months restoring it. The structure’s 30,000 square feet is over four levels. Wood timbers and Chicago-common brick, along with ceilings that rise about a dozen feet, mark the building.

“We did a complete renovation on it, inside and out. It has all new windows and has been completely sandblasted inside. It has new plumbing, HVAC and electrical. It has a new parking lot, new landscaping, a new passenger elevator and new entryways,” said De Vries.

“It’s the typical type of renovation that we do,” he added. “It’s not a historic building. But I think it’s somewhat of a historic restoration because we try to keep most of the components of a building that are there, relative to timbers, brick and the kind of things that people really appreciate.”

The warehouse didn’t come with the hardwood flooring that is usually found in turn-of-the-century factories. So De Vries had to get a bit creative when he put in new floors. Some floors are carpeted, while others are made of OSB board.

“OSB is flake board, like the stuff you might see on the side of a house. We used that on one of the floors and we painted it. And then we had some real heavy steel plate that they used on the first floor for hi-los, and we cut that up and reused it as flooring in some of the entryways,” said De Vries. “It will never wear out.”

The Century Business Center has parking for about 80 vehicles, and leasing information is available at 454-1446. The second and third floors are full, but much of the first floor has vacant space. Space is also available on the lower level.

“I like its access; that is tremendous. It’s right off the expressway,” said De Vries of what his favorite things are about the Century Business Center. “I like its proximity to downtown. I like the uniqueness of the building’s character, and I like the fact that the building has all modern amenities in it.”

De Vries Companies is a contractor, developer and Realtor. De Vries Construction Ltd., De Vries Development and Ed De Vries Properties Inc. are all under the company umbrella. De Vries Companies is headquartered at 1345 Monroe Ave. NW.

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