Founders Staying, Blue Bridge Isn't

October 2, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Founders Brewing Co. isn't leaving the Brass Works Building, but Blue Bridge Ventures LLC has packed up and gone.

Jack Buchanan, CEO of Blue Bridge Ventures and an original partner in the group that successfully renovated the former factory at 648 Monroe Ave. NW, has moved his development firm a few blocks north to the old Imperial Metals building at 801-803 Ionia Ave. NW.

Buchanan and his brother, local attorney Rob Buchanan, are getting ready to transform the building into an office address. Ironically, Founders was to have shifted its pub and brewery from the Brass Works into 15,000 square feet on the north end of the Metals building. The move would have given Founders owners Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers one-and-a-half times more space than they've had the past 10 years at Brass Works, along with more room to increase their production capacity.

But Jack Buchanan said the U.S. Small Business Administration didn't approve the loan Founders needed to buy their space in Metals, so they decided to continue leasing at Brass Works.

Second Story Properties President Sam Cummings, part of the group that bought Brass Works last year, told the Business Journal that Founders signed a new lease and is renting more space there.

Phone calls made by the Business Journal to Stevens were not returned at press time.

The Buchanans are doing business in the Metals project as the Irish Twins Group LLC, and the loss of Founders left them with a lost year as they waited for the brewery to lock in its financing. But other than the time that can't be recouped, not much else has changed for them in the project.

"Nothing, really. We've spent a lot of time working, waiting on this, and that's been frustrating for us. But overall, the space they were going to take is the coolest space in the building. It's got a lot of drama to it," said Jack Buchanan.

"We're working with a couple of other prospects for the space already. We've got an offer going out probably by the beginning of next week to a pretty good-sized office tenant. But we're still moving forward on it."

The Buchanans are offering to either sell or lease space in the building, which will be renovated to the tune of $9.7 million. The work includes razing part of the structure and adding 30,000 new square feet to the existing 30,000 square feet. Underground parking will also be part of the project, which will have a raw industrial design, similar to the Chelsea Market in New York City.

"The bottom line is we're very confident we're going to be able to find somebody else for that space," Buchanan said.

Blue Bridge left Brass Works last week as Buchanan sub-leased his firm's space, and he made the move to the Metals building earlier than he expected.

"We had somebody who said they liked our space [at Brass Works], but needed it right away. We felt like this was a bit of a bird-in-the-hand, and we were anxious to get over to Imperial anyway," he said. "So we will wind up with temporary space over there much like what we did when we came to Brass Works."    

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