One Down, One To Go

February 17, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Alticor Inc. easily cleared one hurdle last night and will try to jump over another one next week in its quest to build a new 340-room hotel at the southwest corner of Pearl Street and Campau Avenue.

Now that the city’s Historic Preservation Commission ruled Thursday that the Israels Building at 226 Pearl St. NW has no significant architectural or historical merit and isn’t worth saving, Alticor can focus its attention on getting approval from the city’s Planning Commission.

The company and its representative for the hotel project, HP3, will meet with planners next Thursday when three issues will be on the agenda. Alticor needs approval for overhead walkways, a landing pad for helicopters, and authority to raze the IsraelsBuilding to clear the way for the hotel.

With the advisory finding from the preservation commission on the record, planning commissioners will focus their attention on the new use proposed for the Israels site. A hotel is a legitimate use under the downtown zoning ordinance. In addition, walkways and helicopter pads already exist in the sector.

The hotel would rise 24 stories, feature a ballroom that could seat up to 1,000, and have a parking structure for 700 cars. Alticor has estimated that the hotel will cost from $60 million to $70 million, with the parking deck adding possibly another $10 million to the total tab. Roughly $11 million in public funds are going to the project.

Preservation Commissioner Mark Miller, a local architect, said he wants to save as many of the city’s older structures as he possibly can, but he remarked that the IsraelsBuilding isn’t a shinning example of an architectural style or period. Commissioner Phillip Chafee, a real estate broker and attorney, said the four-story structure was only marginally historic.

“It is not significant or special,” said Michael Kaufman, a principal with Lohan Caprile Goettsch, a Chicago firm designing the hotel with the BETA Design Group. “We came to the conclusion the IsraelsBuilding should not be saved.”

Kaufman added that a terra-cotta portion from the upper level of the IsraelsBuilding would be incorporated in the design of the new hotel, which will be operated by Marriott.

Alticor bought the building in October 2003. Israels Designs for Living occupied the structure from 1977 until last October.

Pepper Construction of Chicago and Rockford Construction will manage the project. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for this summer. Construction is expected to take two years and Alticor plans to open the hotel in September 2007.    

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