River City Building now Windquest

July 25, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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The former River City Building, a stately old seven-story office building on the northwest corner of Monroe and Lyon in downtown Grand Rapids, has received a top-down do-over, with a 3,500-square-foot condo and rooftop terrace on the top, an “upscale wine bar” on the bottom, and a lot of Windquest Group business in between.

Now known as the Windquest Building, the partially occupied building was acquired in 2008 by Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy, to house the offices of the Windquest Group, the holding company for their investments. Grand Rapids tax records indicate the purchase price was $1.5 million.

They had acquired the 92-year-old building at 201 Monroe Ave. from RDV Properties, according to Allan Hoekstra, finance and operations director for the Windquest Group. Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, Dick’s father, bought the building in 2000 from Peter Secchia.

Several banks had occupied the main floor of the building over the years, with city tax records indicating the last one was Comerica Bank, which sold the property to Secchia’s investment company in 1994.

According to city of Grand Rapids records, the Windquest Group has received preliminary approval for a $2 million Michigan Economic Growth Authority state business tax credit in return for making a $10 million investment in the building. Windquest representatives told the city in 2008 that their total capital investment in the property would be $11.5 million.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority also approved tax increment financing of about $500,000 to support Windquest improvements within the building to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and exterior public infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks and curbs.

Hoekstra said one of the goals of the renovation was to retain the exterior character of the building. He said a comparison of the current exterior with old photographs shows that the outward appearance is relatively unchanged, “but then when you come in, what we did was really strip it down to the bare brick walls and cement floors and then rebuild everything. So the interior would be described as fairly modern.”

Hoekstra said all three of the major office furniture companies in West Michigan were suppliers for the furnishings. Rockford Construction was the construction manager for the renovation, with Via Design, of 44 Grandville Ave. SW, providing the interior architectural and design plans.

Brian Barkwell, a principal of Via Design along with Valerie Schmieder, said a “very extensive remodel” has been underway for two years now.

“We did the entire building,” he said, which is eight floors including the basement.

“We renovated the entire existing structure, and then we also did each individual floor space — architecture and interior design, including all the furnishings, artwork, everything,” he added.

According to Hoekstra, the 5th and 6th floors are occupied by the Windquest Group.

The 4th floor is occupied by Pomegranate Studios, headed by Rick DeVos, now known throughout the community as the founder of ArtPrize, and ArtPrize headquarters will now be in the Windquest Building.

Pomegranate Studios is reportedly all about incubating and supporting technology and Internet start-ups that rely on creativity and innovation.

On the 3rd floor, according to Hoekstra, are “a couple of different groups,” apparently organized under the name of Flagrant Idea.

On the 2nd floor is Org West Michigan, a Windquest company that markets products produced by the Stow Co., a Windquest company in Holland that makes components for organizing home storage.

Prior to ownership of the building by Windquest, the last enterprise in operation on the ground floor of the building was a coffee shop/deli. Now there is a much bigger splash in store this fall, when Reserve opens its doors to the wine aficionados of West Michigan.

According to a news release, the Windquest Group has partnered with Kameel Chamelly, owner of Martha’s Vineyard, to open Reserve: “an upscale wine bar.”

“As we considered various options for the retail level of the Windquest Building, opening a wine bar had great appeal to us. We felt there was a need for such an establishment downtown and that this idea would add to the vibrancy of the heart of the city, and was one with which we could have fun,” said Windquest Group Chairman Betsy DeVos.

She said Chamelly’s “in-depth knowledge of wine, strong relationships within the community and wonderful rapport with customers made him an ideal choice.”

Reserve will feature one of the largest Cruvinet wine-dispensing systems in the area, accommodating more than 100 bottles. Cruvinet is a temperature-controlled system for dispensing wine by the glass from bottles, keeping the wine fresh for weeks after being uncorked.

“The choices will be unprecedented, featuring a range from first growth Bordeauxs to boutique California Cabernet Sauvignons. The flights will be educational and fun, introducing varietals not normally marketed in our area,” said Chamelly.

Reserve also will feature a “seasonal shared plates menu” to complement its wines. The menu will highlight seasonal and locally produced ingredients, including cured meats and artisan cheeses. A “highly educated wine staff” will provide patrons with recommendations on wine and food pairings. In early 2011, Reserve will offer wine education classes, tasting events and wine dinners featuring prominent winemakers.

With seating for up to 170, Reserve will include a charcuterie on the main floor and a private dining area, lounge and outdoor terrace on the mezzanine.

Reserve is currently in the hiring process and will bring more than 30 new jobs to downtown, according to the Windquest news release.

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