City Amends Purchase Option

January 9, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners have amended a four-year-old purchase option on the Area 3 parking lot.

One change to the original agreement allows Rockford Development and its partners in the project, the DeVos family and Second Story Properties, to develop the lot on Ionia Avenue between Weston and Oakes streets in stages rather than all at once.

Another allows the developers, known as CSL West Associates LLC, to give 45 days’ notice when they exercise the option instead of the six-month lead time required by the initial contract.

The Downtown Development Authority also has agreed to the changes to the contract and Parking Services will continue to operate the city-owned lot for public parking until the entire lot is optioned.

Rockford Development COO Kurt Hassberger said CSL West has paid the full purchase price for the lot up front, even though the property will be developed in up to four stages. The first building planned for the site will likely be two stories at the lot’s south end and an unnamed bank will occupy both floors for its corporate office.

“They’re pretty much ready to go there. They’re in the design stage right now,” said Hassberger, who added that he couldn’t reveal the identity of the bank moving to the site.

The original agreement was hammered out in December 1999 and involved a three-way property swap between the city, the DDA and SIBSCO, the real estate firm owned by the Peter Secchia family.

The city and the DDA ended up with the Area 5 parking lot on Ionia near Cherry Street and the U.S. 131 exit ramp, while SIBSCO got a five-year option on the Area 3 lot.

In August, the DDA transferred the option from SIBSCO to Rockford Development. SIBSCO and Rockford were the original partners in the $50 million Cherry Street Landing project, which includes developments along Ionia. The DeVos family replaced SIBSCO last year.

CSL West will pay the DDA $330,000 for the lot. The purchase price includes a $15-per-square-foot credit from the earlier property sale to the DDA for the Area 5 lot. CSL West holds the option until Dec. 28.

In a related development, Hassberger told the Business Journal that a tenant has been found for the ground floor of the new building going up on the former site of the Milner Hotel at 70 Ionia Ave., across from the Area 3 lot. He said a restaurant, which he couldn’t name yet, has signed a contract to lease the lower level of the planned four-story, 44,000-square foot building.

BETA Design Group, the project’s architect, is taking the third and fourth floors for its new corporate office, and with the addition of the restaurant, only the second floor remains to be leased. The structure, a combination of pre-cast concrete and glass, is expected to be finished next summer as part of the ongoing Cherry Street Landing project.

Rockford Development and the DeVos family are building the Landing, which involves at least 10 buildings in the Heartside Business District. Eight of those structures are located between Cherry and Oakes streets and Ionia and Commerce avenues.           

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