City Buys Watson Heald Building

May 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The city of Grand Rapids will file a motion in Kent County Circuit Court this week to take possession of the Watson & Heald Building, a 116-year-old structure at 101 South Division Ave.

After attempts to auction the building this fall fizzled, Assistant City Attorney Bernard Schaefer said the city recently submitted a credit bid for $149,804 and bought the Watson & Heald. The city’s bid was the amount it spent making structural repairs to the building.

“We purchased it at the foreclosure sale at the amount that we’re owed. There is going to be a motion filed with the Circuit Court to confirm the sale,” said Schaefer.

That motion will be filed with Circuit Court Judge George S. Buth at a confirmation hearing on Friday afternoon. If the motion is granted, anyone with a claim on the building will have 90 days to respond and pay the city the money it spent on repairs. If no one does that, the city will take possession of the building after the 90 days pass.

“If Judge Buth grants the motion, he will issue an order confirming the sale,” said Schaefer.

Fryling Construction Co. and the Downtown Development Authority have liens on the building, while Turnstone Services Ltd. has a mortgage on it. The city, however, holds the first lien on the building.

The city won a foreclosure case earlier this year against the building’s owners, after they failed to make the required improvements to the structure in the Heartside Historic District at Division and Oakes Street. A California resident, Terry Vanderschuur, and a Kentwood firm, Breezewood Properties LLC, were the owners of record then.

For much of its existence, the three-story Watson & Heald had housing units on the top two floors and commercial businesses on the ground floor. Renovating the building would bring an owner tax credits because it sits in a historic district.

After failing to auction the building, Schaefer said the city decided to buy it with the intention of selling it to a developer.

“We wanted to move the process along and a foreclosure sale is not the best way for a property to be marketed, as it’s a little bit of a bouncing ball to people,” said Schaefer. “What we wanted to do was to be able to be in a position to market the property as the owner, so people could come to us and not have to go through that route.”          

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