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Developers Keep City Awake Nights
GRAND RAPIDS — What they’re doing is supplying the final link to turn downtown into what it desperately needs to become: a 24-hour city.
And that is why one finalist for the Newsmaker of the Year award is actually seven unrelated development groups that are independently doing the same thing: building new places for people to live in the central business district.
“From day one, the DDA established downtown housing as one of their primary goals for the revitalization of downtown,” said Jay Fowler, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
“Back in 1979, nobody was living downtown, and since that time we’ve added several thousand housing units. The importance of housing is that it provides 24-hour life to downtown. Without it, downtown would be something close to an office park,” he added.
Six of the housing projects are renovations of existing buildings. One is brand new construction. In no particular order, here are the development groups:
- Bantam Capital Investments LLC is renovating the building at 101 S. Division Ave. The plan is to locate a restaurant on the ground floor and market-rate apartments on the second and third levels. Ted Lott, Greg Metz, Daniel Durr and Paul McGraw are the Bantam principals.
- Second Story Properties will begin turning the soon-to-be former YMCA building at 33 Library NE into at least 40 roomy condominiums this spring with amenities designed to appeal to older adults. Sam Cummings and John Green are Second Story Properties.
- Parkland Properties LLC has converted a longtime exclusive office address, the Select Bank Building at 60 Monroe Center, into City View Condominiums and commercial space. The 25 condos sold quickly. Jonathan Rooks owns Parkland Properties.
- Belford Development LLC is renovating seven addresses on the south side of Monroe Center between Ionia and Division avenues into ground-floor retail and a dozen Front Row Condominiums. John Wheeler, Michael VanGessel, Dave Lubbers, Lee Kitson and Paul Belden are partners in Belford.
- Dwelling Place Inc. is leading the renovation project called the Avenue of the Arts on South Division, which will result in 23 two-bedroom apartments and studio, gallery and retail space in four buildings. Dennis Sturtevant is CEO of Dwelling Place.
- First Shot LLC is making over the former Fox’s Jewelers at 83 Monroe Center into retail space on the ground floor, a dozen apartments on levels two through four, and two penthouse condos on floor five. Deborah Shurlow is the developer.
- A partnership between Bob Tol, Ray Kisor and Vern Ohlman plans to build 150 new upscale condominiums in a 10-story structure on the southeast corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue. The massive 292,000-square-foot Park Place project will go up on the site of the old Junior Achievement building.
“One of our most important strategies right now for the city’s economic development is adding what we call knowledge-type jobs,” said Susan Shannon, economic development director for the city.
“What we know that attracts these knowledge jobs to the area is having a core group of educated people. We want to create the kind of lifestyle that they’re looking for, the quality of life they’re looking for. A lot of what they’re looking for is this kind of housing that is in the center of a very vibrant area,” she added.
The seven development groups will collectively spend about $80 million to help downtown tick around the clock.
“Living, working, shopping and being entertained here is what really creates a 24-hour city,” said Fowler, “and, therefore, creates an urban district with vitality.”