Finally Fox Lofts

July 23, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — A landmark building on the bustling Monroe Center corridor downtown should begin a long overdue renovation in the coming weeks.

With limited marketing, Fox Lofts LLC has surpassed the number of reservations required to meet the financing threshold to begin converting the former Fox Jewelers building at 83 Monroe Center NW into a 16-unit condominium complex.

Represented by Amy Bernhard of Keller Williams Realty in Grand Rapids, Fox Lofts has currently secured nine reservations for the 625- to 830-square-foot units. Intended as an “affordable alternative” to the luxury units currently available on Monroe Center, units range in price from $139,000 to $189,000 and include refinished wood floors, exposed brick, 10- to 12-foot ceilings and a rooftop deck. A free kitchen upgrade is available for residents who reserve a unit before the end of the month.

The renovation will restore and preserve the Fox marquee.

“We found that was a huge draw — the recognition was a pretty neat thing,” said Bernhard. “We just started up our big marketing push and we’re already looking to get purchase agreements finalized.”

Fox Lofts is a partnership led by Steur & Associates of Farmington Hills and Ojibway Development Partners in Troy. Ojibway will serve as the general contractor for the $2 million project, with plans to break ground in August.

This is the first local venture between the two Oakland County firms. Bruce Michael, an Ojibway principal, is involved in three other local ventures with other partners. A Rockford native, Michael began seeking investment opportunities in West Michigan while visiting his mother last year in Rockford.

“She wanted to go visit her old house in Grand Rapids,” Michael recalled. “And when we drove downtown, it was like, ‘What are all these cranes doing here?’ There is a lot going on here that isn’t happening on the other side of the state.”

David Steur, principal of Steur & Associates, had worked with Michael on Detroit-area projects.

“We were talking about urbanity and creating a walk-able urbanism,” Steur said. “We found we had a lot of shared values and started looking for an opportunity.”

While working with Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce advisor Pamela Foster, the partners discovered that another Grubb & Ellis broker, Deborah Shurlow, owned the last undeveloped property on Monroe Center. They originally approached her in the spring, only to find that another investor already had an option on the property. When that option expired, Shurlow struck a deal with the Fox Lofts partners, who quickly began marketing the property.

“They had an interest and a very good plan in their heads,” Shurlow said. “They know exactly what they’re doing and have been great to work with. I’m glad they came along; I just love that building.”

The top four floors of the 19,000-square-foot structure will be split into 16 residential condominiums, four on each floor. The ground-level floor will be split into two store fronts, one of which is already reserved by a West Michigan restaurant group that does not yet have a presence downtown.

“It looks like we’ve got half of it leased out already,” said Shurlow, the listing agent for the retail portion of the development. “We showed them that space quite a while ago, and they’ve just been waiting for me to either develop it or sell it.”

Shurlow said she expects the sale of the building to Fox Lofts LLC to close in August.

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