Credit Union May Park In City-Owned Space

July 21, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema said she is getting close to sub-leasing 2,322 square feet of retail space on Monroe Center to the Grand Rapids Family Credit Union, whose members are largely city employees and their family members. The space is in the century-old Phinney Building at 87 Monroe Center, near the southeast corner of Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue.

“We are continuing to negotiate with them using our previous lease,” she said.

The previous lease was with Neihoff Fine Art Galleries Inc., owned by brothers Ron and Jim Neihoff. The gallery opened in the site in early 2007, but closed about six months later.

The lease was for five years, with two five-year options. The first-year rent was $14 a square foot, about $2,700 a month, with annual hikes set to match the rise of the Consumers Price Index.

The city gave the Neihoffs an allowance of $20,000 for the gallery’s buildout, money the brothers used to make the site ADA compliant, add a walkway window and improve the entrance.

Ritsema said the space should work well for the credit union, as the site isn’t that far from City Hall and the police department is just a few blocks east. In addition, the space is on the walkway that leads from the Monroe Center parking ramp to Monroe Center.

Ritsema said the ramp offers 60 minutes of free daytime parking, which would make it easy for members to access the credit union. The space also has a street-level entrance on Monroe Center.

Ritsema said the credit union was only looking for a satellite location at first. But after seeing the site, she said credit union officials were convinced they could build a full branch office there.

“That will be a very good place for that use,” said Ritsema, who expects a lease will be in place by next month.

The main office of Grand Rapids Family Credit Union is at 1225 Plymouth Ave. NE. Besides city workers, employees located within 25 miles of the main office and those who receive private or government retirement funds can also join the credit union. GRFCU offers a wide array of savings and checking accounts along with a variety of loans.

In April, Ron Neihoff told the city that he had to close the gallery because there wasn’t any traffic along the walkway. He offered to give the city some of his artwork, two large photographs worth $2,450, in lieu of the rent payment.

Ritsema told commissioners then that the gallery lost $40,000 in six months, after she reviewed the business’s financial statements. But commissioners rejected Neihoff’s offer and told the city treasurer to collect the rent.

Ritsema told the Business Journal that said she thought the Neihoffs would be off the hook when the new lease is signed. But she also felt that commissioners would hold the gallery owners responsible for the rent from the month they first occupied the space until the credit union takes over.

Parking Services leases the building’s first floor from Extra Room of Kalamazoo Inc. and ended up creating the space when it built the indoor walkway from the ramp to Monroe Center as part of the parking facility’s construction. The parking department leased the ramp’s ground floor to Leo’s restaurant in 2004, its first venture as a commercial landlord.

City commissioners will have to approve the lease between Parking Services and the credit union, should both sides reach an agreement.

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