Chicago Project Takes Lead

April 22, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Rack ’em up. Maybe.

A $22 million project that includes condominiums, a jazz club, a bookstore and a billiard parlor was evaluated by a committee last week to be the best of five proposed developments for the former City Centre parking ramp site at Division and Fulton.

Proposed by Chicago-based RSC & Associates, the project includes 74 condos on eight levels with 40,000 square feet of entertainment and retail on the first two floors.

In addition, RSC has promised to build 194 parking spaces into the project, 83 of which would be public spaces and would be operated by the Parking Commission.

RSC has offered $2 million for the property, which was appraised at $1.95 million. Sale proceeds would go to the city’s Parking Services Department.

Parking Commission Chairman Jack Hoffman, who served on the evaluation committee that was chaired by Mayor George Heartwell, said the RSC project was rated the top one on roughly two-thirds of the panel’s ballots.

“The project supports the downtown goal of getting more residential and mixed-use projects,” said Hoffman.

“The staff did some research on RSC’s other projects in Illinois — they’re out of Chicago — and got very high recommendations from them,” he added.

Hoffman said RSC plans to get the project LEED certified.

“Instead of using the roof for parking, they’re going to have a green roof. And you’ll barely see any parking from the street because the retail and residential uses are in a U-shape and the parking is either down below or in the center of the U. So from the outside, all you’ll see are the entrances and exits. It’s a great design,” said Hoffman. “Even those who didn’t rate it first overall commented on the quality of the design.”

Second Story Properties and Grubb & Ellis/Paramount, two local firms, have represented RSC in the selection process.

The committee’s evaluation is expected to go to the Parking Commission on May 12 and then to the City Commission the following Tuesday. City commissioners will make the final decision on which of the five projects will be built on the 37,000-square-foot site.

James Azzar, Robert Tol, Rockford Co. and Design Plus, and One Fulton Plaza LLC also have made offers on the property.

The selected project will go to the Historic Preservation Commission for a review of the design because the former ramp site is located in the Heartside Historic District. If the RSC project is chosen, Hoffman felt preservation commissioners would be likely to approve it.

“They will make sure the design is consistent with the existing streetscape. They will not tinker with the details of the design,” said Hoffman, who has served on the commission. “I can’t speak for the commission. But I feel, given the fact that this is a new building on a vacant space, this will meet their criteria.”    

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