Monroe Center of attention

January 11, 2009
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If Brice Bossardet of Virgin Soil renovates the five-story Kendall building at the east end of Monroe Center, he almost certainly won’t be the only local developer making an upgrade to a structure on that core downtown street this year.

John Green and Andy Winkel of Locus Development plan to renovate a trio of landmark buildings near the street’s west end this year. All three structures are more than 130 years old.

Green and Winkel said last week they will oversee a $4.5 million historic rehabilitation to the upper floors of the Flat Iron, Herkner and Groskopfs buildings, three adjacent four-story structures on the north side of Monroe Center near Ottawa Avenue.

“Our goal is to rehabilitate these functionally obsolete but beautiful old buildings to further complement the vibrancy of downtown Grand Rapids. The initial anticipated private investment is approximately $4.5 million,” said Winkel in a prepared statement.

Their idea is to combine levels two through four of each building into one contiguous floor and end up with about 32,000 total square feet of modern office space across the three floors. The work will be done according to historical renovation standards and the project will seek LEED certification.

“Some portions of the Groskopfs and Herkner buildings have not been touched since the 1940s. The charm is there, but it will take some intricate rehabilitation to upgrade the buildings to modern standards,” said Green.

Cornerstone Architects will design the renovation and Orion Construction will manage the work, which could get started early this summer. Locus Development will request federal and state historical tax credits. Green and Winkel will also ask for local and state grants to help defray the project’s cost.

The Flat Iron at 102 Monroe Center and Groskopfs at 112 Monroe Center were built in 1860, while the Herkner at 114 Monroe Center opened 10 years later.

Blake’s Turkey Sandwich Shoppe and Locus Development are located in the Flat Iron. Groskopfs Fine Luggage and Gifts occupies the ground floor of the Groskopfs building, while the Herkner is vacant after Herkner Jewelers left downtown last year. 

Locus Development is also building an office, residential and retail development called Thirty-Eight at the downtown corner of Commerce Avenue and Weston Street SE. The $26 million project involves two “liner” buildings that will come together at the intersection; a seven-story parking ramp “hidden” behind the buildings is being constructed by Parking Services.

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