New Calder Hotel Proposal Made

October 11, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Blue Bridge Ventures of Grand Rapids and Houston-based Hines Interests LP are meeting with city staff today, Oct. 14, to hear staff’s comments on a 10-month exclusive option the developers want for City Hall, Calder Plaza and the Government Center parking ramp, property the developers want for a new convention center hotel.

Blue Bridge Director of Public Information Ed Kettle said he felt the meeting would lead to a revised option that city commissioners could vote on, and hoped another meeting with commissioners would come within the next few weeks. The city has to be relocated from the plaza to another site for the hotel to be built.

Late last week, the developers revealed they have offered two sites to the city that meet the needs staff has given them for a new City Hall. One is the former Steketee’s Department Store at 76 Monroe Center, a property Blue Bridge President Jack Buchanan said they have had under contract for the past six months. They would renovate the building for the city.

City commissioners recently admitted the Steketee Building into the Monroe Center Renaissance Zone under a proposal submitted by commercial real estate agent Ray Kisor to turn the seven-story structure into a women’s health center. Buchanan said that plan is a backup for the building in case the city doesn’t want to move into it.

The other site is the city-owned, 45-year-old City Centre parking ramp at Division and Fulton, a ramp the city has targeted for demolition. The developers would raze the ramp and build a new City Hall with parking underneath it and a plaza extending to Commerce Avenue.

Buchanan told the Business Journal that they offered the sites to the city only as potential locations where they could relocate, and felt the decision was one the city had to make. He added that they offered the city a renovation and a new construction project in order to better determine what the city’s needs for a new building were, so they could come up with some hard figures on what it would actually cost to relocate the city.

“We disagreed with the numbers. We hadn’t seen some of them before,” said Buchanan of the figures revealed by the city at their Sept. 24 meeting with commissioners. At that meeting, City Manager Kurt Kimball said they had examined two sites but didn’t identify either.

Kettle said they revealed the locations because they wanted to get more information to the public and to show that they have been working on comparative projects. He added that they weren’t trying to drive the deal, but noted that they couldn’t go any further until they had specific information on the size and type of building the city needs.

Kent County also has to move from the plaza to make room for the hotel, which would sit across Monroe Avenue from the new convention center. Kettle said they have proposed putting up a new building for the county at 180 Ottawa NW, the site of the county’s former Probate Court. Los Angeles architect Richard Keating would design the new city and county buildings.           

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