Office Projects Get Boost

June 18, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Downtown Development Authority provided assistance last week to two office projects proposed for the district, one of which could deliver the most new office space since Bridgewater Place opened more than a decade ago.

Board members agreed to reimburse 275 Fulton Place LLC up to $2.1 million for $2.7 million worth of public improvements the firm wants to make to the site near Fulton Street and Monroe Avenue, where it wants to put up a new office, residential and retail building.

275 Fulton Place, a division of Eenhoorn LLC, said the building would offer 134,000 square feet of office space, eight condominiums and 170 parking spaces.

“We have a minimum of condos, but we did want to take advantage of the riverfront. The majority will be office space,” said Lena Stob, spokeswoman and project manager for 275 Fulton Place.

The project would be LEED certified, and the work would include making connections to the existing riverwalk along the east bank of the Grand River and the enclosed skywalk that stretches from DeVos Place to Van Andel Arena. A public atrium, projected to cost $2.2 million to construct, would take visitors to the skywalk.

Eenhoorn LLC, which also owns the Plaza Towers residential building nearby, put a price tag of at least $45 million on the project last week. The new building, designed by Dutch firm Meyer and Van Schooten, would rise to 11 stories along its West Fulton Street side and dip to eight levels at its north end. Between the two ends, the building would be five stories high. Progressive AE is the local architect for the project.

Stob said they’re negotiating the office space with three major tenants.

The DDA can only use local tax increment funds to reimburse 275 Fulton Place for the improvements and would have up to 10 years to do so. To collect the reimbursement, the firm has to begin construction by the end of this year and complete the project by the end of 2009. The agreement is based on a development support policy board members approved in 2006.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said the reimbursement money would come from the tax increment revenue the project generates.

“According to the projection I have, it would take nine years to reimburse that amount,” he said. “The reimbursement is based on the tax they actually pay. They have to pay their taxes to be reimbursed.”

275 Fulton Place has also applied to get the property designated as a brownfield and is seeking a Single Business Tax credit of $4.2 million for its remediation work to the site, which is a parking lot.

Stob said the firm wants assurance from the state that the tax credits will be available before it goes ahead with the project. The SBT expires at the end of the year and state lawmakers have yet to replace the business tax and decide on an amount of credits to be awarded from it each year.

Fowler said the Michigan Economic Development Corp. told him there should be local financial support in place for the project for the state to provide support. Stob said 275 Fulton Place was talking with Pioneer Construction about managing the project.

Should the project go forward as currently designed, the amount of new office space the development would deliver would be the most since Bridgewater Place, a 17-story office tower at 333 Bridge St. NW that added 410,000 square feet to the downtown market in the mid-1990s.

The DDA also awarded 61 Commerce Associates LLC a $50,000 grant for improvements the firm will make to the building at 61 Commerce Ave. SW, located between Weston and Oakes streets. The money will provide barrier-free access, install a fire suppression system,  and make upgrades to the utilities, streetscape and building façade.

“It’s a building badly in need of renovation. The upstairs hasn’t been used literally for decades,” said Fowler.

The five-story building has 25,000 square feet that will be renovated for office space. ProCare Systems, a statewide pain management firm, will lease 80 percent of the structure for its headquarters. The remaining square footage would be leased.

Drs. Fred Davis and Mark Gostine started ProCare Systems in 1994 and are partners in 61 Commerce Associates LLC. ProCare will shift about 75 employees from its suburban site on Sparks Drive to the Heartside Business District location. Commerce Associates bought the building in 2003.

“It’s an excellent project that needs our support. They’re ready to go,” said Fowler.

Asselin Associates Architects of Flint designed the renovation.

“We’re coming up to conclusion. We will be applying for a building permit in a day or two,” said John Asselin, a principal in the design firm.

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