City Hopes To Park Tenant

August 25, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — While the city decides how it's going to sell the 696,960 square feet of riverfront property it owns at 201 Market Ave. SW, also known as the 16-acre Public Works Island, Parking Services is close to sub-leasing 2,322 square feet of prime retail space in the heart of downtown.

Even though the space at 87 Monroe Center carries a lease payment well below the $35 million price tag the city is asking for the Market Avenue property, its location could have nearly as much value to the right tenant.

The site is just east of the corner of Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue, next door to Van Hoeck's Shoes and across the street from River Bank Books and Music. The space is actually on the first floor of the century-old Phinney Building.

There is a street-level entrance from Monroe Center to the space. There is also a public walkway that runs past the space from the Monroe Center parking ramp to Monroe Center, meaning that parkers will pass by the shop to and from the street and the ramp.

The indoor walkway was part of the city's ramp construction, and the retail space came about after the corridor was built.

"If we had been able to lease just the space we needed for the walkway, we would have done that. But that wasn't an option. We had to take the whole first floor of that building, and that left us with some leaseable commercial space," said Pam Ritsema, Parking Services director.

"The city is actively pursuing a sub-tenant for that space. We believe it's an excellent location. It would be nice to see some type of a retail or service operation go in there that would add to the fabric and success of Monroe Center," said Eric Soucey, a coordinator with the Economic Development Department who manages the city's real estate.

Much of the space is enclosed by glass, which gives anyone in the corridor that passes by an opportunity to see what is there. Soucey said it would be fairly easy for a tenant to install an entrance into the shop from the walkway.

The space is leasing for $12 a square foot per year, triple net. The city is asking for a five-year lease and the rate would rise annually by the Consumer Price Index.

"The lease rate for the property is to be at market rate. We don't want to compete with the private sector realty market. Our intent is to lease it at a comparable market rate," said Soucey.

"As best we understand, those terms fall under the standard lease terms for Monroe Center."

The city is negotiating those terms with a potential tenant that Soucey said would bring a retail-type operation to the space and would contribute to the vision for downtown. The city offers an hour of free daytime parking in the ramp six days a week, which could be a bonus for any business along the walkway.

Should the city lease the space, it would be the second time Parking Services has found a tenant for a commercial site generated by the $21 million Monroe Center ramp. Two years ago, Leo's restaurant opened on the ground floor of the parking structure at 60 Ottawa Ave. NW.

"As we were showing that space, the parking ramp was under construction. It was very hard for a lot of potential tenants to visualize what that space could look like when it was done. It turns out that it's a great space and the proximity to the parking ramp services their business," said Soucey.

"And I think this space, at 87 Monroe Center, is certainly benefited by its proximity to that parking ramp."    

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