Hotel Calder Plaza On City Agenda

August 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners are likely to hear the outcome from six weeks of talks between developers who have proposed a hotel for Calder Plaza and city manager Kurt Kimball this week.

City staffers are expected to present their findings to commissioners at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday morning, Aug. 27.

Blue Bridge Ventures, a local real estate development firm that is proposing the hotel with Houston-based Hines Interests LP, had hoped to be on the agenda tomorrow.

“I think we are down to maybe one or two items that we may still have to have one more meeting about. That is why we wanted to kick it to the 27th just in case we had to have one more meeting,” Ed Kettle, spokesman for Blue Bridge, said last week.

Discussions have focused on how the developers could move city administrators and staff members from City Hall, which is on the plaza, to another downtown location and satisfy commissioners that no public dollars would be used to subsidize the move or raise operating costs for the city — something Blue Bridge has said it can do.

“My job is to sit down with Kurt and figure out how we are going to do all this. We haven’t figured how we’re actually going to present that,” Kettle told the Business Journal.

Kettle said a tentative plan has city staff members presenting the fundamental findings from the meetings to commissioners. Then Blue Bridge would address any policy-related assumptions or exceptions that city staff can’t answer.

Kettle said he didn’t expect commissioners to vote on a binding option for a buy-sell agreement after the presentation is made. Instead, he said next week’s gathering will let commissioners see the progress that has been made since their initial meeting on July 9.

“I think they will want to think about it until they come back in the second week of September. I’m reasonably sure they won’t vote on it. If they do, that’s great. The sooner they vote, the sooner we can get the hard numbers back,” he said.

“I’m not asking them not to vote on that day. I’m just not expecting them to vote.”

Blue Bridge and Hines have proposed to build a 24-story hotel with up to 400 rooms on Calder Plaza, which is across Monroe Avenue from the new convention center being built. Renowned Los Angeles high-rise architect Richard Keating designed the hotel around the plaza with the intent of increasing public activity on it through an arcade and other elements.

But to construct the hotel, the nine-story city administration building would have to come down. The city has to be compensated for leaving the plaza and for the parking revenue it would lose from the underground ramp it owns if it does move. Commissioners pledged in July to make a “good faith” effort in the negotiations.

Representatives from Hines Interest and Keating/Khang Architecture are expected to attend the meeting, but are not likely to participate in it.

“It’s purely a numbers meeting,” said Kettle. “Here is the proposal. Here are the elements of the buy-sell agreement, which our attorney has reviewed with their attorney. And here are the conclusions they’ve come to.”     

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