Downtown GH Theater Goes Condo

February 14, 2005
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GRAND HAVEN — The demolition of the old theater in downtown Grand Haven to make way for planned condominiums is the latest redevelopment that is changing the landscape in the city’s central business district.

Nearly five years after buying the former Grand Theater, owner Steve Loftis is finalizing plans to develop a four-story complex with 20 condominium units on the upper floors and a main-floor restaurant.

Loftis and partner Ross Pope, owner of the Redstone Development Group in SpringLake, plan to retain the lobby area and the theater’s landmark marquee along

Washington Street
and incorporate them into their redevelopment plan.

The main theater structure, which dated back to the 1920s, has been razed, the victim of age and the inability to find a new use that would work, Loftis said.

The theater closed in 1999 under its previous owner. With its sloped floors, large stage and cavernous interior, the theater’s auditorium simply wasn’t adaptable to another use, Loftis said.

“There wasn’t much you could do to salvage it,” Loftis said. “There just wasn’t much practical that could be done.”

Loftis and Pope hope to finalize plans for the new condominiums and the Grand Seafood & Oyster Bar within a few weeks and will then pursue city approval of the redevelopment.

Loftis previously considered turning the old theater into a performing arts center, an idea that never panned out.

The project will add to the list of ongoing and planned redevelopments in downtown Grand Haven, including the transformation of a former nightclub into a four-story commercial/residential project and the development of a four-story inn nearby, across from the city’s waterfront.

A block away, a developer plans to raze an existing restaurant along

Harbor Drive
and to develop a new restaurant and condominiums.

The wave of new investment comes after years of relative inactivity downtown. That changed when city and business leaders embarked on a strategy to transforming the central business district.

The plan calls for encouraging development and re-development of underused properties for professional offices, retail stores and residences near the city’s popular waterfront.

The latest element of the strategy is a recently proposed $12.5 million downtown development plan from the city’s Central Business District Development Authority.

The plan envisions numerous streetscape, landscape and parking upgrades downtown and in adjoining neighborhoods.

City leaders are now considering the development plan and a tax-increment financing proposal to pay for it.

Loftis, who owns the SnugHarbor restaurant on the Grand River waterfront and the Dee Lite restaurant next door to the theater, sees the new activity as the result of a pent-up demand for downtown residential space.

“We think this is a good use for downtown,” he said.

“We have a demand and we have opportunity,” he said of his and Pope’s project. “There’s real shelf life in the idea of 24/7 communities.”    

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