City Wins Watson Heald Building

June 4, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The city of Grand Rapids won a motion in Kent County Circuit Court recently that allows it 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 submitted a credit bid in November for $149,804 and “bought” the Watson & Heald. The city’s bid was equal to the amount it spent on making structural repairs to the building.

“We purchased it at the foreclosure sale at the amount that we’re owed,” said Schafer.

The city filed a motion with Circuit Court Judge George S. Buth and the judge granted it at a confirmation hearing held on Dec. 7. Anyone with a claim on the building who wishes to possess it has 90 days from that date to respond and reimburse the city the money it spent on repairs. If no one does that, the city will take possession of the building in March, after the 90 days pass.

“Judge Buth confirmed the sale. There wasn’t any protest about that, so the redemption period ends 90 days from Dec. 7th,” 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. 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. And the city will likely be able to do that starting in March.

“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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