The BOB's latest proposal

January 4, 2009
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The plan to expand The Big Old Building has been in the works since 2002, and later this week the details of the expansion project should become known.

Gregory Gilmore, CEO of The Gilmore Collection, is scheduled to appear before the city’s Parking Commission Thursday and give commissioners details on what is likely to be at least a 20,000-square-foot addition to the 70,000-square-foot downtown entertainment center at 20 Monroe Ave. NW, more commonly known as The BOB.

Gilmore is managing partner of 20 Monroe Building Co., the firm undertaking the expansion. He told the Business Journal he wouldn’t reveal what is planned for the addition until the commission meeting. The 20 Monroe company wants to expand The BOB on a city-owned parking lot immediately north of the building, and since March has held an option to buy the lot for roughly $1.9 million.

“The option agreement was previously approved by the City Commission in March 2008. We will need to come back to the Parking Commission with a development agreement for the site in either January or February, but probably February,” said Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

A development agreement has to be approved by the city before 20 Monroe can start the project. The contract has to contain project details, including how the work will be financed.

The city will require 20 Monroe to invest a minimum of $5 million in the project, build at least 20,000 square feet, and complete construction within three years of the transaction’s closing. The firm also will have to pick up the tab for what it will cost the city to reinstall the parking meters on the lot’s north end. The lot extends east from Monroe to Ottawa Avenue.

Gilmore first talked about expanding the facility in early 2002, after he completed a $1 million exterior and interior renovation to the building, which opened in 1996. He said in 2002 that he wanted to add 12,000 square feet for a theater that would host movies, concerts, dinner plays, parties, meetings and lectures.

Last March, his expansion plan grew to 35,000 square feet over 20 stories, and included a theater, entertainment-type retail, parking, a boutique hotel and condominiums. But since then, the economy has gone into recession and lenders have tightened credit lines.

Construction on another downtown development, The Gallery on Fulton, is under way. The 12-story mixed-use facility at the southwest corner of Division Avenue and Fulton Street will be the new home of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, 56 market-rate apartments and a city-owned parking ramp.

The project’s foundations are being installed this winter, and the building’s concrete structure will become visible this spring. The Gallery is being developed by CWD Real Estate Investments, RSC Associates of Chicago and Triangle Associates. The project is scheduled to be completed in late summer 2010.

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