Artists Add Color To Monroe North

May 15, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Monroe North Business District became a little more colorful and a bit more talented recently as the Grand Valley Artists took up residence at 800 Monroe Ave. NW, a building owned by De Vries Properties.

The artists group leased 3,000 square feet for a gallery and framing shop on the ground floor of the three-story office building at the northeast corner of Monroe and Newberry NW.

“This is the same group that puts on the Reeds Lake Art Show, the big one in the summer. And they’re going to do one on the riverfront on Sept. 21,” said Ed De Vries, co-owner of De Vries Companies, the parent firm of De Vries Properties.

The September art show will take place in the city-owned parks along the east bank of the Grand River. De Vries felt the show would be a nice coup for the business district, as it will add a festive atmosphere this fall to the changing neighborhood. Also, the LaFontsee Galleries are just north of the Grand Valley Artists at 820 Monroe Ave. NW.

De Vries is continuing to renovate the 50,000-square-foot building. His firm tore down an old shed to add more parking spaces and a new entrance from Monroe. His company also restored a portion of the interior, put up a new façade and installed new windows. He said an extensive landscaping job was next on his to-do list for the building.

“We’re probably about 80 percent full. We have space in there from warehouse space to straight office space to the kind of space that the Grand Valley Artists have,” said De Vries. “So it’s a real nice mixed-use building.”

The office building is located directly across Monroe from Landmark Lofts, a historically restored condominium building also owned by De Vries Properties at 801 Monroe Ave. NW.

De Vries said residents have moved into the structure, which was built in 1875, and they have a view of the river to the west and city parks to the north and south. He added that an office tenant would be moving into the Lofts building in July, leasing 3,000 square feet on the first floor.

“There has been a lot of interest in the building since spring has arrived and the parks have begun to flourish,” he said.

But De Vries said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the former A&P grocery warehouse at 38 Front Ave. SW, located south of Fulton Street. His initial plan was to renovate the 100,000-square-foot building into housing units. But the reconstruction of the U.S. 131 S-Curve killed that plan as the state took a chunk of his property to widen the southbound side of the expressway, which moved the highway about 40 feet closer to his building.

De Vries then thought of converting the building into office space. But when Front was closed at Fulton for the expansion of the Grand Valley State University downtown campus, access to the warehouse from the downtown business core became more difficult.

A jury recently awarded De Vries an $850,000 settlement from his lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Everything hasn’t been settled yet, so I better not comment,” said De Vries, who did add that he has no immediate plans for the building. “The suit has nothing to do with what we’re going to do with the building.”           

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