Gotham Ventures Wraps Up
First Residential Venture

July 6, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — It certainly isn't the largest building to be renovated on

South Division Avenue
. Nor has the effort received a lot of publicity.

But the project has some significance because it shows that a privately funded residential development can push progress down the avenue south of

Wealthy Street
, which was once considered to be an economic border that private money didn't cross.

Gotham Ventures is finishing its renovation of

447-451 S. Division Ave.
, a three-story building located between Wealthy and Logan streets. It's Gotham's first project, which it largely did on its own, and the firm has filled most of the building's 13,500 square feet.

CityLifeChurch occupies the ground floor and about half of the basement, while the second and third levels feature four two-story condominiums. Two condos are owned by Craig Gray and Chad Reul, principals in Gotham Ventures. The other two are for sale and are expected to be ready for occupancy this fall.

"We bought the building about two-and-a-half years ago and we've been working on it ever since. It was built in 1912. There was a boarding house on the upper two levels, and the main floor was always a commercial unit," said Gray.

"The All-American Café was in 447 for many years, and there were numerous businesses on the other side that came and left. When we got it, it was abandoned. The last tenant that was in there was a biker-gang club on the main floor, but they left before we purchased it," he added.

Gray said he and Reul bought the building because they had a vision. Gray, who works for printer and packager SVH Group, likes the area and has lived downtown for the past decade, which has allowed him to watch all the sector's developments unfold from a front-row seat.

"We saw all the things that were happening, and we knew that there was going to be a potential for this area to turn around and come back. We like the aspect of living downtown, so we decided to buy the building and convert it into four condos on top and commercial use on the main floor," he said.

Two key improvement projects close to the building are on the drawing board.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids plans to replace the old Uptown Cleaners and Goodwill buildings at Wealthy and Division with parking and a small park.

Part of the Wealthy-Jefferson Development Initiative would make major improvements to the east side of

South Division Avenue
from Wealthy to Franklin streets. Inner City Christian Federation and the South East, Heritage Hill and Heartside neighborhood associations are responsible for the initiative.

"The ICCF project is directly across the street from us, and they're breaking ground supposedly next month. We're just kitty corner from the diocese's purchase of Uptown Cleaners and that old Goodwill building. So that will be happening there. Across the street from there, they are supposed to be taking down So-So's Lounge and all those buildings," said Gray.

Gotham Ventures has completed about 80 percent of the project, and work is wrapping up on the two remaining condos. Gray and Reul designed the renovation and had Lott3-Metz Architecture create the drawings. They gutted the building, served as the general contractor and are marketing the condos. The building was part of the Downtown Parade of Homes last month.

The two remaining condos are each about 1,500 square feet, and that figure includes loft space, which is roughly 200 square feet. The ceiling on the second floor rises about 9.5 feet, while the third floor offers 16-foot ceilings. Each has two baths and bedrooms and exposed brick on two of the walls.

The building has a new roof, windows, electrical, plumbing and a fire sprinkler system. There is parking for tenants behind the building, and the two condos in the back have outdoor decks.

"Each of the two units that are available also has skylights that were original to the building that we restored. When you're standing on the main floor, there basically is a cutout in the ceiling and there is a cutout in the next ceiling that goes about 26 feet up to an atrium skylight," said Gray.

Gotham Ventures is asking $180,000 for an unfinished condo and $210,000 for a finished one.

"As the area grows, that price will increase," said Gray. "So somebody coming in now can have a pretty good equity standpoint in the next three to five years."     

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