The HUBB Is Latest Focus

August 25, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — True North Construction should begin renovation work on The HUBB any day now. But True North Real Estate has already begun marketing the office space in the 50,000-square-foot building at 1515 Madison Ave. SE.

Horace Demmink, CEO of PathWay Internet Services, bought the warehouse earlier this year from PB Gast & Sons. Demmink has already located his firm in the former PB Gast office space and has wired The HUBB, which stands for Horace’s Urban Brick Building, with fast and super-fast access to the Internet. So the first thought was to market the space to Web-based firms and create a technology network under one roof.

That still could happen. The building, though, is also being offered to any company that wants a loft-style, high-tech, tax-free, secured office.

“I think [Wed-based companies] would be a good fit for that building, but that’s not who we’re exclusively looking for. They would be a good fit because there is a high-speed connection to the Web, but it would work well for any business that needs a high-speed connection,” said Tony Pearson, president of real estate operations at True North Real Estate.

“We’re finding that a lot of those Web-based businesses only need 600 square feet, and about the last thing we need is 100 600-square-foot tenants,” he joked.

Pearson said because Demmink has a lot of connections in the e-commerce field, he is marketing the loft-style space to Internet companies, while True North is doing the same to other businesses. The space is listed and True North is getting the word out to commercial real estate firms that have a good base of office clients.

“From an office standpoint, the building has free high-speed Internet with the ability to have ultra high-speed Internet and (is) tax-free in a brand new, completely renovated building,” said Pearson. “It’s very attractive space.”

The building is in the city’s nearly tax-free Renaissance Zone and the tax benefits will run through 2011. Technology controls the building’s climate and the security, and its servers are capable of reaching a 5-megabyte symmetric load speed.

Another tenant perk is parking. A 192-space lot sits behind the building, which is fenced in on two sides, and a private courtyard leads tenants into The HUBB from the lot.

Pearson said rents will run from $6.75 to $7 a square foot, but will drop to about $6 for tenants that lease at least 10,000 square feet.

“Someone isn’t going to be pulled down there just because of the rent rate. It’s going to take someone that is looking to move into a neighborhood that is improving very quickly,” he said.

The three-story HUBB is the largest building in the Southtown district, a square mile sector that fans out from the Madison Avenue and Hall Street intersection. Lighthouse Communities, a nonprofit group headed by David Allen, has been a driving force behind the district’s revitalization by helping to renovate buildings in the area and by building affordable housing there. Lighthouse held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house last month for The Avenue Apartments, a 10-unit senior housing complex at 1300 Madison Ave. SE.

Lighthouse was recently awarded a $100,000 Cool Cities grant from the state and is spending the money on The HUBB’s renovation, which will cost about $2 million to complete.

“You can see the improvements coming right down Madison. There are a lot of brand new buildings and there are a lot of building renovations that just keep moving south. The HUBB is really an integral piece of that; it’s the biggest building within that effort,” said Pearson.

True North Construction is managing the renovation. True North Architecture designed the work, which is tentatively set to start around Labor Day and be finished early next year. Now True North Real Estate is turning The HUBB into a triple play by marketing the space.

“We have all three of those companies under one roof. What we really try to do is make it easy for somebody to do a renovation like this,” said Pearson.

“We minimize a lot of phone calls because we’re taking care of everything in-house. We can cut out a lot of time and effort and let the owner of the building, who is also more than likely a business owner, do his job, maintain his life and keep making money.” 

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