Downtown Lodging Should Boom
GRAND RAPIDS — As the new convention center rises, so, too, do the stakes in the lodging industry in downtown Grand Rapids.
The skywalk, which already stretches from the Van Andel Arena to the Grand Center, may one day even stretch across Michigan Street to a new hotel, said David Frey, co-chairman of Grand Action Committee.
But Peter Secchia, who currently owns the Olds Manor building on the corner of Michigan and Monroe Avenue, has no plans to convert it into a hotel, Frey said. But should the occasion arise, the new DeVos Place will be ready, he said.
“We have designed the convention center to accommodate a walkway and can make that happen if the current owner of the Olds Manor building decides to turn it into a hotel or if it is purchased again with the intentions of turning it into a hotel,” Frey said.
DeVos Place, which will open in 2004, should be a catalyst for the hotel trade in downtown Grand Rapids, Frey said.
“Our consultants, Deloitte & Touche, suggested that the area add an additional 1,000 hotel rooms to accommodate the number of guests,” Frey said. “While we (Grand Action) don’t have a direct role in that, we will encourage someone to find a site and build a hotel, or to renovate something such as Olds Manor.”
And while he reiterated that Amway is currently studying two or three different options, including a site south of Israels Design For Living, the group has not made an announcement about its plans.
“I do think, however, and just in good business sense in particular, that any hotel shouldn’t open until January 2005. Now that is not to say that March or June of 2005 wouldn’t work too; it just makes sense that you would want to time it with the opening of the convention center, meaning the people who are going to bring the business, with the opening of the hotel, where you want to draw business,” Frey said. “You don’t want to open beforehand and have a lot of empty rooms because each one is quite expensive.”
Frey said Grand Action would not be developing its own hotel.
“I don’t think that is our role. We want to stay focused on our core mission, and as enticing as it is (to get involved in a new hotel) I don’t foresee that for us,” Frey said. “I see that more in the interest of the private sector.”
And the developer doesn’t have to be local. Frey said he would like to see national hotels come to the area, including Sheraton, Marriott or Hilton, possibly even an international network.
But if the Olds Manor building is renovated into a hotel, the issue of parking will continue to come up. “I think, however, if we do get a hotel in there a skywalk is necessary, especially with all of the weather patterns we have here,” Frey said. “For those people that are staying in the hotel and then need to get to the convention center for a meeting and then maybe at night want to catch a game or concert at the arena, it will be possible to do all of that, even in the winter, while staying warm and not having to bother with putting on warm clothes and taking them off continuously.”
While Frey maintains that the current owner of Olds Manor has not announced its intentions, it doesn’t hurt to try and forecast.
“When the intentions are announced we will be there,” he said. “We will form a partnership and from there we can offer counsel on every part of construction, who will build the outside and who will build the inside and also in search for funds. Until then, we can speculate and work with what we have, and be ready for when the announcement is made.”