Varnum Wins Its Tallest Case

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — If heads are counted, it’s the city’s second-largest law firm. But if you count feet, Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett LLP just became its tallest.

Planning commissioners unanimously granted a request from Varnum last week that will allow the firm to place its name near the top of the east and west sides of Bridgewater Place, the city’s largest and tallest office building.

When the Varnum name is attached it will be near the very top of the 17-story premium office structure, more than 200 feet above street level.

The letters that will spell “Varnum” will be made of custom-fabricated aluminum, will be illuminated by white neon and will take up 227.72 square feet on each side of the building. The “V” in Varnum will be 7’3”x7’9’’ and will occupy 56.19 square feet. The other letters will be 5’5”x31’8” and will occupy 171.53 square feet. Sign Art designed the letters.

The law firm had to get the city’s approval to put its name on the west side, the building’s main entrance at 333 Bridge St. NW. Putting it on the façade of the 17th floor meant it would not be attached to a floor that has office space, a requirement of the city’s code for signage.

At Bridgewater Place, the 17th floor is a penthouse that houses the building’s mechanical systems, and Varnum needed the city’s nod to go that high on that side of the eight-year-old, blue glass-and-steel structure.

“We just think it looks better there,” said Randall Kraker, a partner at Varnum.

City planners and City Planning Director Bill Hoyt agreed.

The sign on the east side of the building met the code requirements for what is officially known as upper level identification signage.

Varnum was allowed to bring its case before the Planning Commission because the city code allows major tenants of a building to place their name or logo on one. The law firm gained that designation in December when it renewed its lease at Bridgewater Place for 10 years, adding another 19,000 square feet and another floor to its total space.

Varnum leases about 100,000 square feet over six floors and has the right of first refusal to more space in the building. Varnum has a staff of 163, of which 132 are attorneys.

Bridgewater Place, with 411,000 square feet, is owned by the Granger Group of Companies and Silver Hawk Properties. CB Richard Ellis of Grand Rapids is the building’s leasing agent.

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