Off Again On Again

June 13, 2002
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It must be that City Centre is the only downtown building in which people are interested.

Or at least it must seem that way to Assistant City Attorney BernardSchaefer, the man charged with selling the Watson & Heald Building to the highest bidder and who, so far, has been unsuccessful in two attempts.

The City of Grand Rapids will again offer the structure at an auction on Wednesday. But this time the three-story building at 101 South Division Ave. will be offered for a price that is $123,764 less than previous auctions.

Instead of the prior minimum bid of $270,758, the new upset price for the building is $146,994. A motion filed recently by Schaefer and approved in Kent County Circuit Court removed a lien held by Fryling Construction Co., allowing the building to be sold at a lower price.

Bidding will start Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the east entrance of the Hall of Justice at 333 Monroe NW. The highest bidder must pay either the full amount following the auction, or put 10 percent down and pay the balance by 2 p.m. Cash, a bank money order or a cashier’s check are accepted means of payment.

After a sale is completed, Fryling Construction and the building’s previous owners will have 90 days to redeem the Watson & Heald by reimbursing the buyer. Fryling is owed for the work the company did while under contract to Breezewood Properties LLC, a Kentwood firm that bought the building from a California resident.

The city took possession of the 116-year-old structure located in the Heartside Historic District after it won a foreclosure case against its previous owners, who failed to make required repairs to the building. The new upset price covers the structural repairs the city made to the building.

  • Uh-oh, it won’t be long now. Expect Fifth Third Bank to sneak into your psyche even more subtly as it continues its march northward, naming minor league baseball stadiums in its wake.

In 1999, the Ohio-based bank, which calls Cincinnati home, invested in what is now known as Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton, Ohio. The Dragons of the Class A Midwest League play there.

Last week, Fifth Third announced that it has invested in the new $39 million home of the Toledo Mud Hens Triple A baseball team. That stadium, too, will be called Fifth Third Field.

Now, as the banking giant pushes forward, how long will it be before Old Kent Park is renamed — you guessed it — Fifth Third Field? Once it’s been established that more than one baseball diamond can bear the name of Fifth Third Field, why can’t they all have the same name?

Watch out, Comerica Park, if Mike Ilitch needs a little more cash to land some free agents, he might sell out to … well, you get the idea.

  • OK, stop burning up your PCs. The Grand Rapids Hoops have a new Web site, www.grandrapidshoops.com, so there’s no legitimate reason to think you have to visit the old one.
  • To say Channel 13 recently honked off the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce is an understatement on the order of calling the Grand River a creek.

The chamber was fuming in part because it felt Channel 13 gave overmuch attention to the fact that high wind and heavy seas drove much of the tall ships flotilla back into Muskegon Lake. In the chamber’s view, that report, together with news that one of the ships was leaking heavily, constituted “a negative.” Whatever that may be.

Too, a chamber spokeswoman was aggrieved that Channel 13’s shoreline reporter referred to Muskegon Lake as Lake Michigan.

OK, chalk up one for Murphy’s Law of Live Broadcasting: She misspoke herself.

But just for the record, it could have been a real negative — a tragedy, in fact — had those vessels, some crewed by teenage students, failed to turn back.

Lake Michigan has a deserved reputation as being one of the world’s nastiest bodies of water. Moreover, one of the worst places for a sailing vessel to be caught in a gale is off a lee shore. The shifts of West Michigan beaches and shoreline dunes often reveal the skeletons of sailing ships that Lake Michigan storms have destroyed.

Running for shelter in the harbor was the captains’ duty to their crews and their vessels. It hasn’t been all that long ago that the Norwegian Merchant Marine school ship, Christian Radich, was dismasted and nearly sank in an Atlantic gale. In the mid-50s, a terrific storm sank the German Merchant Marine cadet ship, the Pamir, with most of her young crew.

If anything, the visit by the tall ships — what the media billed as a great look at yesteryear — was made even more authentic by the storm and the skippers’ prudent response to it.

But the chamber should be less concerned about transitory TV coverage than by the success of the event. Scores of thousands of people came to Muskegon’s downtown Heritage Landing shoreline to see the ships and to get a look for themselves at a community that has changed radically for the better.

Where Muskegon once turned its back on its lake, it now embraces that beautiful resource. Lots and lots of visitors — some from hundreds of miles away — saw the town at its rapidly improving best. That was the point of the whole exercise.

We’d say that’s a big positive.

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