River Grand Addresses Panel Concerns

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GRAND RAPIDS — The development team behind the proposed River Grand development made its largest disclosure to date in a series of letters to city officials made public this afternoon.

The letters — dated May 23, 30 and 31 — were forwarded to city of Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Susan Shannon yesterday in response to questions from the 201 Market Steering Committee.

As reported in this week's Business Journal, committee members had a number of concerns about California businessman Duane Faust's proposal for the 15.8 acres of city property at 201 Market St. SW commonly known as the Public Works Island.

Faust proposed a 36-acre development with 25 percent of it devoted to housing, 25 percent to office space, and 35 percent to retail and entertainment. The remaining 15 percent would be open space.

The original proposal included confidential information that could not be shared with the committee, including the identity of an internationally known construction firm attached to the project.

In today's disclosure, that company was revealed as Hill International Inc., the nation's largest independent construction management firm. Easily the highest-profile organization connected to any of the three 201 Market proposals, Hill International counts among its clients Abu Dhabi National Oil Co., the U.S. Department of State and The Trump Organization.

Hill and Faust's company, the Grand Rapids Development Corp., will identify and coordinate the multiple developers and construction teams necessary for each facet of the River Grand project.

The disclosure also reaffirmed the involvement of Greenberg Traurig LLP attorney Joel Katz, one of the nation's preeminent entertainment lawyers, and private equity firm Pacific Everhart Investment Group. The letter from Pacific CEO J. Tommy Chung commits $85 million in financing to acquire the entire 46-acre parcel intended for River Grand and pay off $7 million in soft costs.

The Chung commitment is a departure from the proposal as presented to the city, which called for a 36-acre project.

While the disclosure addresses concerns regarding the legitimacy of Faust's proposal, it does not address the larger issue of what the development group intends for the city site.

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