Bringing Goodspeed Up To Speed

November 22, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The renovation of 190 Monroe, also known as the Goodspeed Building, is almost finished. Just a bit of work on the elevator and a few other aesthetic touches are all that is left to be done on the six-story office structure built in the 1890s.

The project is also the first renovation for Second Story Properties in some time.

Second Story President Sam Cummings and Executive Vice President John Green formed a partnership with Todd Schaal of The Estes Group and Todd Oosting of CD Barnes & Associates to revive the Goodspeed Building, once occupied by such noteworthy companies as AmeriBank, the Grand Rapids Hoops and DP Fox Ventures LLP.

Today, Schaal has his loft-style office on the 6th floor and chances are fairly good that a restaurant will be moving into the 6,500-square-foot-space on the ground floor. Oosting directed the renovation, while Cornerstone Architects President Tom Nemitz designed the project that has taken about six months to complete.

"We are about 95-percent done," said Green. "Probably our biggest improvement is the lobby. We completely gutted the lobby area and it's a significant upgrade. The ceiling has been raised. We have new flooring and we actually did a Goodspeed logo in the tile."

New hardware and a new security system were installed, and new, larger windows were put into the north wall of the 28,000-square-foot structure to open the building up a bit. Cummings said the Goodspeed was in good shape to begin with and was why they decided not to do a historical renovation on the structure.

"We didn't do that much to it to warrant going through the historic tax-credit process. The building was in pretty good shape, it just really needed to be updated and needed some new mechanicals and brought in line, if you will, with today's market demands," he said.

Cummings and friends bought 190 Monroe from a group of local attorneys. They see the project as a solid investment, as it's located at the southeast corner of Monroe Avenue and Lyon Street NW — just kitty-corner from the new convention center that is going up and a few blocks north of the proposed art museum and Van Andel Arena.

"Our feeling is that with its proximity to the new convention center and all the other things going in, we felt there would be a need for a restaurant in the area," said Green, who is negotiating with an interested restaurant owner and an office user for the 5th floor.

In addition to having the building's location to promote, the partners also have another key factor to sell — one that is not found very often in office listings. At the Goodspeed, a potential tenant can either lease space or buy a floor.

"We have the capability of selling office condominiums by floor. With interest rates as inexpensive as they are, we've discovered a lot of clients are very much interested in owning their own building," said Cummings. "This gives someone an opportunity to build equity, but not have the specter of maintaining an entire building by themselves.

"Our intention is to offer the flexibility of someone either leasing, or leasing-to-own, or strictly owning their own condominium floor."

Those who choose to buy will be able to have the management division of Second Story manage their floor.

"We can actually put someone into that building, owning their own floor, at a rate that is comparable to what they would pay for leasing," said Cummings.

"If you look at it from a cash-flow perspective, it's probably about $3 to $4 a square foot less by owning versus a lease," said Green.

The proximity of the building to high-traffic sites and its visibility on one of downtown's most heavily traveled streets drew Cummings back into the renovation business after market conditions sent him into sort of a self-imposed sabbatical. His last major renovation project was announced in 1998, as part of the Canal Street Group that restored the Brass Works Building at 640 Monroe Ave. NW.

Known then as Macroe Properties, Second Story has been a pioneer and a leader in renovating downtown office buildings, having done at least a half-dozen in a short span during the last decade. But after Brass Works, Cummings remained relatively quiet on the renovation front until 190 Monroe became available.

"It has been a while," he said since he has done a renovation. "But we've been filling up what we have and holding on to who we have."

What kept Cummings on the sidelines for a few years was that a lot of other developers entered the market after he made his concerted run, which included a series of buildings on Ionia Avenue SW between Fulton and Oakes streets. And he said all the renewed interest in downtown buildings pushed prices for vacant and near-empty structures skyward and then eventually through their leaking roofs.

"The same old ratty building in the early and mid-90s that we bought for $5 to $7 a square foot all of a sudden had asking prices of $20 to $30 a foot. It doesn't take a whole lot of mathematical expertise to determine the difference there," he said.

"We figured that we would sit on what we have and concentrate on giving our clients great service, then wait to see what happened," he added. "We were a little concerned that things might become over-saturated."

That hasn't happened, but Cummings said it has been a difficult task to find tenants over the last 18 months or so due to a lackluster economy. To his surprise and pleasure, however, he said leasing activity has picked up within the past few weeks.

"It's sort of caught us off guard, which is good," he said. " I don't know what happened. Maybe we just got lucky, but there has been a lot of new activity."           

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