Kent Takes Over 82 Ionia

April 1, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDSKentCounty is the newest landlord in the downtown office market.

And like any responsible building owner, the county began a drive to cut the structure's operating expenses shortly after it closed on

82 Ionia Ave. NW
and took possession of the four-story building situated between
Fountain Street
and MonroeCenter on March 1.

County commissioners recently agreed to add two full-time personnel to do maintenance and contractor supervision at the building. A maintenance supervisor will be hired in May and a maintenance technician will be brought on board in September. The hires are expected to save the county $78,300 in annual labor expense, reducing that yearly charge to $127,000 from the $205,300 it would have cost Kent to contract the services out.

"These two people will manage the contractors who might be in the building," said Robert Mihos, who directs facility management for the county, of the structure's overall general maintenance.

Mihos explained that a single person has managed the maintenance at 82 Ionia, while a management group hired by the previous owner did most of the contract work, and that individual will train the new county hires who will take over later this year. Until then, the current management will continue to oversee maintenance operations.

The county expects to save $56,000 this year alone from the switch.

"Instead of hiring someone new, we will be sticking with the people who know that building for the rest of the year," said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

Mihos said some improvements would be made to the building to bring the structure up to county standards.

Built in 1932 and renovated in 1979, the building offers 108,000 square feet of leaseable space. The structure comes with a two-story parking ramp with space for 128 cars. Kent County began leasing space in the building in 1998 when it struck a lease-purchase deal with the structure's then-owner SIBSCO, a real estate company owned by the Peter Secchia family.

The county prosecutor's office, Friend of the Court and Circuit Court Probation occupy over 72,000 square feet in the building. The city's 61st District Court drug-testing program has nearly 1,900 square feet there, too. Others tenants are the National Labor Relations Board, telecommunications firms Ameritech and Lucre, and Wiersum Restaurants Inc.

About 19,000 square feet remains vacant at 82 Ionia, but the county doesn't intend to put any of that space on the market right now. Delabbio said the county's Office of Community Development will be moving into the building when its current lease at 741 East Beltline Ave. NE expires later this year.

"I don't know if we want to be in the market of marketing that office space to the private sector, unless it is somewhat complementary to what we do there," said Delabbio.

Delabbio said the county primarily bought the building to handle any overflow from the county courthouse that might occur should the circuit court system expand in the coming years. Should another judge or two be added to the court, a court-related department like Community Corrections could be moved from the courthouse at Ottawa Avenue and Lyon Street to nearby 82 Ionia to make room for the new justices and staffs.

Kent County bought the building for $5.5 million and closed on the transaction in late February. Roughly 300 people work at 82 Ionia.

"We have to have our people on site," said Mihos of the maintenance change. "It's our building."    

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