LEA puts new spin on old car repair joint

January 3, 2010
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Grand Rapids public and investor relations firm Lambert Edwards & Associates is renovating a downtown building for its offices.

With the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-ready renovation of 47 Commerce Ave. SW underway, LE&A is establishing a “signature location” to house its 25 Grand Rapids employees, Managing Partner Jeff Lambert said.

“Our lease is coming up and we wanted to look at something we could really call our own and be more of a signature location,” Lambert said. “I just think we’re looking forward to being part of the continued revitalization of downtown and making an investment in the long-term. That’s what we need more of: people who see a long-term investment in this economy.”

Lambert’s counter-intuitive approach has been to view the recession as a good time to make investments. Earlier this year, LE&A purchased Detroit public relations firm John Bailey & Associates, adding staff in Detroit and Lansing, and added a representative in Los Angeles as well as several positions in Grand Rapids. Last year, the company expanded its space on the fourth floor of the National City building into 2,500 square feet on the fifth floor.

Now the firm is buying into the 47 Commerce building, owned by a Chicago company, with a 2009 State Equalized Value of $144,800. Lambert said LE&A plans to invest as much as $500,000 into the build-out, which is being carried out by Cornerstone Architects and Pioneer Construction.

Lambert said the company expects to move in by April 1, noting that some of the basic renovation work had already been completed. The building had been vacant prior to ArtPrize last fall, when LE&A, along with adtegrity.com and Pioneer Construction, hosted 10 pieces of art.

“We wanted to participate in ArtPrize and went looking for a venue. We came across 47 Commerce. We just really fell in love with the place,” Lambert said, noting that it served as a car repair shop for much of the 20th century.

“It’s really a cool spot, but in terms of the interior, it’s a blank, wide-open space, and we’ll do a full build-out,” he said, including open areas as well as enclosed offices, a rooftop deck and green roof.

“The theme is ‘professional cool.’ We have the more serious side of our business in the investor relations, and then a little more fun with the public relations, so we want to combine those two — creative and professional — into a single look and feel.”

Lambert points to Locus Development’s Thirty-Eight mixed-use project at 38 Commerce and CWD Real Estate Investment’s $38 million Gallery on Fulton mixed-use building under construction nearby as evidence that this area is hopping.

“We think we’re hitting it at the right time. … Commerce is really going to be significantly changed,” he said.

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