Partners Restore Heritage

February 8, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — In its heyday, the Park Professional Building was arguably one of the most active office addresses in the Heritage Hill District, which is largely known for its collection of historic mansions and award-winning homes.

Stratus Properties LLC wants to return the L-shaped structure at 345 State St. SE to that earlier status — plus add a residential element to the building now called Heritage View Place, and revitalize a key sector of the city.

Kim Beyer, brothers Todd and Chris Wawee, Dan Carter and Paul Brown constitute Stratus Properties. They, along with some other investors, plan to renovate the building’s existing three levels and add two floors to the 52-year-old structure at an estimated cost of $4.6 million. Their idea is to maintain the three lower levels for office and commercial tenants and build 14 condominiums on the two new upper levels.

“We actually started by working on some budgeting things for the former owner, and he couldn’t make a go of it. It was going to be foreclosed, so we put a group together and purchased it,” said Beyer, who owns Constructors Inc., a construction firm with a lengthy track record of renovation work.

“We had two different scenarios. We could either rehab the building and lease it for commercial, or try to put these two stories of residential on top of it. It worked out that we didn’t have too much trouble getting that approved,” he said of the latter strategy.

The Historic Preservation Commission and the City Commission support the mixed-use concept, as do the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Going with more than a single use can also make for a healthier bottom line.

“Economically, it’s better if you can add some additional stories and get revenue out of that,” said Beyer.

A nice incentive is in the wings for eventual owners of the 14 condos. The building anchors an area called Heritage Square at its State Street and Prospect Avenue site, and those blocks are in the running to be designated as a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone. If Heritage Square gains that standing, and all indications are that it will, then property owners in the NEZ will pay lower property taxes for a dozen years. The reductions will be based on the investments they make into their homes.

“It gives us a good marketing tool for the residential condominiums because the owners will get that,” said Beyer.

The development is playing an important role in the NEZ application, as the building has been identified as the catalyst project for the designation. It’s essential for a neighborhood to have an anchor development in order to gain zone status.

“Heritage Hill came up with that idea. They approached us. They actually talked to the city before they approached us. Then they called us and said the city wants to do this and wanted it to be the catalyst project,” said Beyer.

“There wasn’t any real downside for us. So we said, ‘We might as well, why not?’”

Each floor in the building will offer about 9,000 square feet of space, or 27,000 square feet for the three commercial levels. Because Heritage View Place is only a few blocks north of the Saint Mary’s Health Care campus and within shouting distance of the Michigan Street Hill sector, Beyer said they’re looking to fill those floors with medical offices.

“That probably makes the most sense, logically, in that area,” he said.

Constructors Inc. will manage the project; W.L. Perry designed it.

Beyer said work would get started as soon as the partners receive final approval from the state for their brownfield request and the NEZ that the neighborhood association and Stratus Properties are jointly seeking. The city has given the green light to both, and Beyer said the state is expected to make its decisions by the end of this month.

The work is likely to take 10 months to complete.

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