Rockford keeps downtown development on track

September 27, 2011
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Rockford Construction, which has likely been the most active developer of downtown structures over the past 15 years or so, is picking up where it left off with at least three projects on its agenda.

One is a ground-floor renovation of the storefront at 52 Monroe Center, most recently home to a small grocery store and deli. The company, doing business as 52 Monroe Center LLC, plans to redo the building’s façade to match the exterior of the Peck Building across the street. In the late 1990s, Rockford and SIBSCO, owned by the Peter Secchia family, revived the Peck, which stands at the northwest corner of Monroe Center and Division Avenue.

Besides replacing the façade, the work at 52 Monroe will involve changing the glass in the windows and front door and installing a new awning above the entrance. The work has been estimated at $40,000; the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority awarded it a $25,000 grant from its building reuse program.

“We actually have a letter-of-intent signed with a full-space user and we’ll announce that in the next week or so,” said Kurt Hassberger, COO of Rockford Development Group LLC and a member of 52 Monroe Center LLC.

The second downtown project is a work in progress, but it does involve a key downtown parcel in the district’s entertainment area. Earlier this month, 45 Ionia Associates LLC, an entity with ties to Rockford Development, closed on the 28,750-square-foot parcel at 45 Ionia Ave. SW. The property is currently part of the DDA-owned Area 3 parking lot and was once the site where a nine-story condominium project called Tall House was going to be built, until the housing market began its nationwide collapse in 2007.

The DDA sold the site in 2004 to a partnership between Rockford Development and the DeVos family, which in turn sold it to the Tall House developers, who lost the property in a foreclosure action.

“I am happy to report that we have closed on the acquisition of the property at 45 Ionia,” wrote Hassberger, a member of the site’s LLC, to DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler.

The LLC bought the site from PNC Bank. The property is located next to The Bank of Holland at 51 Ionia Ave. SW and is just east of Van Andel Arena.

The company’s third on-the-burner project is set for 35 Oakes St. SW, where an office structure similar to the one it built at 70 Ionia Ave. SW — better known as GRid 70 — is planned. The development firm, 35 Oakes Associates LLC, plans to renovate the eight-story building into 50,000 square feet of office space and 6,500 square feet of retail space at a total cost of $8.4 million.

Initially, Rockford planned to turn 35 Oakes, once the Heartside Manor, into an apartment complex with 42 units. But the success of GRid 70, which mostly contains designers, convinced management to go the office route. GRid 70 has been so successful for the firm that it bought the building at 64 Ionia Ave. SW and is converting it into an addition for GRid 70.

Rockford Construction’s crowning achievement in the district has been the Cherry Street Landing project that it pulled off with SIBSCO, roughly a 10-building development south of Fulton Street that mostly wrapped up in 2006. At this point in time, the last remaining parcel in that aggressive 450,000-square-foot, $60 million landing development is the former Tall House site.

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