Another Old Downtown Building Makes ComeBack

April 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS—The building that once housed a famous downtown nightspot and hotel has been renovated and now has space available for lease.

Bob Kirchgessner Jr. has converted the former LaMar Hotel and Horseshoe Bar into loft office space on the second and third levels and has set aside the ground floor for retail or restaurant use.

The structure at 333 Grandville Ave. SW, at the corner of Goodrich Street, offers a total of 9,000 square feet over its three floors.

“The best that I can tell is the Horseshoe Bar closed in the late 1970s. I don’t think there has been an occupant of the building since then,” said Kirchgessner.

Kirchgessner owns The West Michigan Group (WMG), a 12-year-old residential and investment real estate brokerage firm.

He is in the process of moving WMG to the building’s third floor. WMG began as Kirchgessner Realty three decades ago, a company started by Bob Sr.

Kirchgessner bought the building in 1998 from a group that had planned to renovate it for a multi-level jazz and blues club with a restaurant, about the time the Van Andel Arena opened its doors in 1996.

That plan never materialized, but Kirchgessner is hoping to find a tenant that would be interested in doing a scaled-down version of the club, or an art gallery, or a coffee shop on the ground floor.

“The first floor really sets up for some type of retail use,” he said, while adding that the lower level has 14-foot-high ceilings. “The area is really starting to come around. The Grand Rapids Ballet is across the street and ITP is going in there. I think its time has come.

“It’s such a unique building. Maybe the term is overused, but it’s a signature building. It’s a great place for someone to locate.”

Offices are planned for the top two levels. For leasing information, call 957-8100.

Orion Construction directed the renovation work, while DTS Architects designed the project on the Victorian-style building. Both are Grand Rapids firms.

When Kirchgessner bought the building it was just a shell. So he shored it up with a new steel skeleton and footings. Then he removed a staircase from the middle of the building, which made more useable space available. Kirchgessner also upgraded the utilities, installed an elevator, bathrooms and a fire escape, and built an addition that houses a stair tower and serves as a mechanical room.

The interior has an attractive loft look with exposed brick walls and wooden floors, and ceilings that rise 12 feet on the top two levels.

“It’s very neat and unique. There are bay windows and there are views in four directions on the third floor, and in three directions on the other two floors,” he said.

The building opened as a grocery store and rooming house for train travelers in 1891. But the structure’s notoriety grew following World War II when Frank LaMar bought it for his hotel and the Horseshoe Bar.

The Horseshoe featured many of the country’s top jazz and blues artists over the years and became a popular nightspot for the city’s black residents. A brothel also reportedly operated on the building’s top floor.

“I’m a fan of old homes and old architecture. I’m much more impressed by a three-story Victorian than I am a skyscraper,” said Kirchgessner.

“And I feel that there are very few buildings in Grand Rapids that are as interesting architecturally, and when you throw in its storied past, it really is a special building.”

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