Commerce Building Getting Historic Redo

December 11, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Second Story Properties has begun its historical renovation of the nearly century-old, single-story structure at 53 Commerce Ave. SW, also known as the Frederick Upholstery Building.

Second Story President Sam Cummings said he expects the work will be completed by February. He then will have 5,000 square feet of leaseable space available in what is quickly becoming a revived sector in the Heartside Business District.

The building is across Commerce Avenue from a $14 million project proposed by 38 Commerce LLC on that street and along Weston Street. The firm wants to put up two buildings for office, retail and residential uses; the development is to include a separate $11 million parking ramp the city plans to build and hide behind the buildings.

Second Story bought the upholstery building more than two years ago, and Cummings said the new project has served as a catalyst for his renovation effort. Down the road, it might even lead to another project for his company.

“We were part of that development team because originally the ramp included that whole site. Through the design process, our parcel got designed out because it’s on the other side of the alley and the fire trucks couldn’t get through there, and the utilities were too shallow,” he said of the Commerce and Weston project.

“We own the frontage along Division and we have an option as part of that development. If we do build a structure on that frontage, we have an option to build a connection to that parking ramp.”

Second Story is putting a new roof on the upholstery building, installing new windows, and giving it a new storefront. New HVAC, plumbing and electrical services also are going in, and the interior and exterior masonry walls will be repaired and restored.

“We’re redoing the entire façade and we’re punching in some new windows on the south side. We’re replacing all the windows on the west side and rebuilding the wall on the west side. We’re replacing some of the rotted roof truss and entirely replacing the roof,” said Cummings.

“We just didn’t want it to go through another winter without a significant improvement. It had a dropped ceiling throughout and you couldn’t see the elaborate roof truss. It sort of had a turtle roof. We’ve taken the dropped ceiling out, and we think it is a wonderful lease space for one or two smaller companies,” he added.

Second Story is marketing the space for office, retail or restaurant use and is willing to divide the space if more than one tenant is interested in the building.

“Right now, we have it set up so it’s divisible by two,” he said.

McGraw Construction is directing the work and Lott3 Metz Architecture designed the renovation. The project is the 21st historical renovation Second Story has done in its 14-year history.

The building’s history goes back to 1917 when it opened as a carpentry shop. Eight years later, it became an electric service station for autos and then a chrome-plating operation after World War II. It was vacant from the mid-1960s until Frederick Upholstery operated there for two years starting in 1973. The Empire Bus Line and G&M Coach Buses occupied the space in the mid-1970s. Heartside Body Shop was there from 1980 until 1990 when Phoenix Printing moved in and operated there until two years ago, the year Second Story bought the building.

“This is a great little building that offers an incredibly unique and affordable environment for office, retail or entertainment,” said Cummings. “It will be ready for occupancy in February.”   

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