Heritage Tower To Undergo Transformation

November 5, 2008
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The new owners of the historic Heritage Tower in downtown Battle Creek plan on restoring some of the building’s former grandeur and making it more appealing to high-tech businesses.

A Florida-based investor group known as Random Acquisitions purchased the building in late August after the building had sat unsold for three years. The new owners were drawn to Heritage Tower because of the Internet bandwidth available on the city’s downtown fiber optic loop.

Heritage Tower will house a second office location for some divisions of Brand Asset Digital LLC subsidiaries. The Pensacola Fla.-based firm offers digital media marketing and distribution solutions and services to the media, entertainment, advertising and marketing industries.

“We needed the bandwidth,” said Benjamin Bates, project manager and partner in Random Assets. He said the new divisions of Brand Asset Digital will occupy about 50 percent of the building’s space but there will continue to be space available for lease by other companies. Additionally, the new divisions will be staffed by all new hires, he noted.

As of mid-October the company was still formulating its plans and had not yet chosen an architect. Bates said it’s not true that eight of the 20 stories in Heritage Tower are going to be converted into a hotel, as had been reported in another publication.

He said the first six months will be devoted to taking care of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and putting on a new roof. In the second six-month period, the attention will turn to cosmetic repairs and renovations. He said the hope is to complete the project in about 18 months, but because of the historic nature of the building, it could take longer.

The Art Deco style, 20-story Heritage Tower and Dome Center was constructed in 1930-31 by Merchants National Bank & Trust Co. It was occupied by MNB successors — Securities National Bank , then Comerica Bank — until around 1994 when it was purchased by businessman Art Dore, who renamed it Heritage Tower. Up until a few weeks ago, the 149,000-square-foot multi-business complex housed a variety of retail and office tenants. The building’s second floor features a cathedral-like, domed and vaulted ceiling, travertine walls and mural paintings by Chicago artist Alexander Rindskopf. The 55-foot-high Heritage Dome Center serves as a reception and banquet facility. Bateman said the Dome Center will continue to be available for lease, as well, and one of the first phases of the plan is to modernize, renovate and make repairs on the dome and, as much as possible, restore it to its original glory.

“Our goal is to preserve the architectural integrity of the building,” Bates said. “We would like to return the façade to its original state by taking off the metal awnings. It’s a glorious old structure, and we want to keep as close to the original as we possible can.”

Downtown Battle Creek was wired in 2003 and the city authorized Battle Creek Unlimited to manage it. The Ethernet fiber ring and the high-speed connectivity it provides is considered an important economic development and marketing tool and a potential magnet for high-tech business, according to BCU, the economic development organization serving Battle Creek and Marshal. The system provides any level of bandwidth required. The loop extends from the central business district to Fort Custer Industrial Park, W.K. Kellogg Airport and the Aviation and e-Learning Smart Zone.

BCU Development Director Cheryl Baird said the renovation of Heritage Tower will give a boost to the downtown area.

“The principals of the company that we have spoken with have some wonderful plans — not only to preserve the building but also to attract new investments to the downtown area,” Beard said.

This past June, Brand Asset Digital received one of six 2008 Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards from the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. 

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