Calder Option Should Be On Agenda

November 21, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners are expected to vote Tuesday on whether to extend the option that Gallium Group LLC had on City Hall, Calder Plaza and the Government Center parking ramp.

Gallium’s original year long option expired Oct. 29. A day before it expired, city commissioners tabled for a month a vote to extend the option by six months.

In commission time, those 30 days expire on Tuesday.

Gallium is an investment partnership between Blue Bridge Ventures of Grand Rapids and Hines Interest LP of Houston.

The partners want to build a 400-room hotel on the plaza, which is across Monroe Avenue from the new convention center. But to do that, Gallium must move the city to a new downtown location at no additional cost to taxpayers.

In the proposal Gallium gave commissioners last month, a section of it had the cost of building a new City Hall and a new parking garage.

Gallium hired Owens-Ames-Kimball Co. to put together a building budget for both, and using recent construction data from the Kent County Courthouse — a project the company managed — the firm came up with an estimate.

The city complex that O-A-K proposed would run just short of $19.2 million. Add in another $670,000 to manage the project and the total cost comes to $19.8 million.

The proposal features 125,800 usable square feet and a parking ramp that would hold 250 cars. The building would cost $16.15 million, or $128 per square foot, while the ramp would cost $3 million, or $12,000 per parking space.

Land costs were not included in the budget, as a site for a new City Hall hasn’t been selected.

In October of 2002, commissioners charged Gallium $25,000 for an exclusive one-year option to buy Calder Plaza. Commissioners voted 5 to 2 then to grant the option.

Mayor John Logie and Second Ward Commissioner Lynn Rabaut voted against doing that.

Last month, Logie and Rabaut repeated their opposition to giving Gallium an extension. Rabaut added that if the commission does extend the option then commissioners should charge Gallium more than $25,000 for it because the city spent more than that amount on outside legal counsel during the option period.

Rabaut suggested last month that an extension should cost Gallium between $100,000 and $150,000.

Commissioners also agreed last month that Gallium should pay for an appraisal of the plaza property the city owns.

During the option period, Gallium said it spent at least $250,000 on its proposal. Prior to getting the option, the developer reported it invested more than $1.5 million in the project.

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