Downtown views trio of projects

November 12, 2010
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Members of the Downtown Development Authority agreed last week to reimburse three construction projects planned for the district a total of $1.9 million under its Development Support Policy. That amount will serve as a local match to the state's offerings of Michigan Business Tax credits for the projects.

"These are all similar in that they're requesting funding from tax-increment development," said Jay Fowler, DDA executive director of the reimbursement source. "But the projects are quite dissimilar in nature."

One is a medical office building. Another is a new urban marketplace. The third is an expansion of downtown's largest entertainment center, The BOB. The three will be investing a combined total of roughly $57 million into the developments.

The medical office project is being done by Health Park Central LLC. The work will add a new, three-story, 48,000-square-foot building to the existing three-story Advantage Health structure at 245 Cherry St. SE. The project's investment has been projected at $10 million, and 35 to 40 new jobs should be created from it. An unidentified out-of-town business will reportedly move into the new structure.

"It's a project that we've been working on for four years. We went to the Planning Commission three years ago and got it approved," said Doug Bouwer, a partner in Highpoint Real Estate and Development. "Then the economy slowed, but now we're ready to go."

Highpoint has managed projects for Advantage Health in Standale, Caledonia and on the East Beltline, along with 245 Cherry St.

John Byl, an attorney with Warner Norcross, said the state has indicated it will grant the developer's request for nearly $1.2 million in MBT credits through the brownfield program, if the project gets local financial support. The DDA agreed to reimburse Health Park Central $235,887 from the tax-increment revenue that the project will generate. City commissioners ratified the developer's brownfield application in September.

20 Monroe Building Co. LLC, headed by Gilmore Collection CEO Gregory Gilmore, wants to expand The BOB at 20 Monroe Ave. NW. The partners plan to build a four-story, 35,000-square-foot, live entertainment venue on a parking lot adjacent to the existing building. Gilmore said all kinds of events can be held there, such as music concerts, ArtPrize and even a tomato festival. He said there won't be permanent seats or a permanent stage in the "multi-flexible" structure, which will have a retractable roof and a floor of private suites.

Gilmore said he expects the building would be used three or four times a week for events, and that it could be used to park cars when there isn't much going on there. "Downtown is still tricky," he said of the district's activity level. "We'd love ArtPrize all year round."

The partners are investing about $20 million into the expansion that is expected to add 147 permanent jobs to The BOB. The DDA awarded the project a reimbursement of $432,000. City commissioners have already approved its brownfield application, which could lead to tax credits worth $4.5 million.

"The project is nicknamed 'Bobville,' but that is not its name," said Gilmore. He added that a name-the-building contest was held, but he didn't reveal the winning name.

The DDA gave Grand Rapids Urban Market Holdings LLC, a for-profit entity formed by the Grand Action Committee and the DDA, a reimbursement of $1.9 million for the city marketplace it plans to build on 3.5 vacant acres at Wealthy Street and Ionia Avenue SW.

The firm, which is being overseen by a nonprofit corporation called Grand Rapids Urban Market, plans to invest $27 million into the project. The DDA transferred the property to the LLC for the development.

"I think this is necessary for the urban market to qualify for several millions of dollars in tax credits," said Fowler of the reimbursement request.

The DDA also contributed $100,000 to the project.

Byl said the project's brownfield application has to be approved in December to collect a credit worth 20 percent of the investment the LLC makes. After Jan. 1, Byl said the tax credit drops to 15 percent.

"It will be a great development for that sector of downtown," he added. "The final structure and management are still being decided, but right now it will be on the tax roll."

The reimbursements are for eligible activities as defined by state law. That includes public infrastructure improvements like sidewalks and utility upgrades, barrier-free access and restrooms, and fire-safety systems, among other items.

"We are committing to returning tax-increment dollars for up to 10 years," said Kayem Dunn, DDA chairwoman.

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