River Grand Reveals Local Players

June 16, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — A national developer hoping to put a mixed-use project on riverfront land in Grand Rapids has introduced his local team.

Ten excited local firms stood alongside Atlanta businessman Duane Faust and his Lambert Edwards & Associates spokespeople last week at a press conference at Custer Workplace Interiors on

Grandville Avenue
, one of the properties the company had been seeking to acquire.

If the project proceeds, local contractors Owen-Ames-Kimball, Erhardt Construction and Dan Vos Construction will work with construction manager Hill International, of New Jersey

Lead architect Tom Dowling, president of Grand Rapids-based Design Pinnacle, will be joined by architectural firm Via Design and A/E firm Tower, Pinkster, Titus & Associates, both of Grand Rapids

King & MacGregor and Materials Testing Consultants have been enlisted as environmental engineers. RJM Design Inc. will manage planning. Walker Parking Consultants will manage parking. Moore & Bruggink Inc. will serve as civil engineer.

"We have some of the best talent this region has produced represented here," said Faust, CEO of Grand Rapids Development Corp. "We have some excellent partners here that will help facilitate the River Grand project."

As widely reported, River Grand is the plan for a massive project along the riverfront in downtown Grand Rapids. Central to the project is the 15.8-acre parcel of city-owned land at

201 Market Ave. SW
, commonly known as the Public Works Island. Three letters of interest were evaluated for the property this month, with River Grand the only one intending to incorporate the surrounding property.

Faust believes the scale of his proposal sets it apart from the competing plans.

"If you look at what the city is asking — three acres of setback — you're only left with 13 acres to actually develop," he said. "If we bring 36, 40 acres to the table, it will enhance the quality of life in a much more meaningful way. A cohesive development is definitely better for the tax base and job creation."

Faust did not specify whether the project could continue without the city property, or what private property he currently has under option. Many of the landowners publicly lambasted Faust when he was identified as the project developer.

"We have agreements pending on all the property we are interested in," he said.

What property that is has not been identified, and is believed to be an evolving situation.

Dowling, the lead architect, did tell the Business Journal that River Grand will not likely raze the entire area in favor of new construction, as is widely believed.

"We'll try to retain whatever buildings we can," he said. "There are some structures, like the old Horseshoe Bar or Custer (Office Environments) that we will be able to tie into the project."

A city review team recently characterized River Grand as overly vague. Faust balked at that characterization, stating that he has supplied exactly what the city has requested. Only when a formal RFP is issued, he said, will he submit a detailed proposal.

Currently, the project is described to include 25 percent residential, 25 percent office space, 35 percent retail and entertainment, and 15 percent general development. Because of the massive size of the project, the review team questioned its practicality.

"One of the things I keep hearing is that this will take away from other parts of Grand Rapids," Dowling said. "That's just not the case. We're planning on bringing new companies to the region, companies with people who are going to need housing."

Dowling added that the growth of the Michigan Street medical corridor will also play a part in the development, as professionals are imported from East Coast markets who desire a higher-class urban home — rather than a suburban residence.

As for potential clients, no member of the development team had any names to share. As in earlier appearances, Faust mentioned technology firms, among others.

He reiterated intentions to create an entertainment zone of regional significance, explaining that this project should be viewed as something that will benefit the entire West Michigan region.    

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