Architecture & Design, Arts & Entertainment, and Real Estate

Historic ballroom sees new life as part of CityFlatsHotel expansion

October 11, 2012
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Historic ballroom sees new life as part of CityFlats expansion
CityFlatsHotel believes The Ballroom space it has opened up, hosting up to 200 people, will help it vie for regular weddings and events downtown. Courtesy CityFlatsHotel

Though a ballroom was not in the long-term plans when CityFlatsHotel opened just over a year ago in downtown Grand Rapids, when owner Charles “Chuck” Reid saw the space located on the second floor at 77 Monroe Center NW, he decided it was a perfect addition for his hotel next door.

With grand marble columns, vaulted ceilings, tall, narrow windows, detailed woodwork and a vintage atmosphere, the new CityFlats facility creates the feeling of walking into history and easily lends itself as an elegant wedding backdrop.

“One of the main things is that there are a lot of banquet facilities downtown, but not a lot have this character and charm that The Ballroom has with all of the ornate detail and the vintage aspects of it,” said Katie Madonio, marketing coordinator at CityFlatsHotel. “I think it brings a whole new option to the city that wasn’t here before.”

The banquet space offers flexibility in layout options and seating arrangements. It also has a mezzanine level that can be used for photos, DJ set up, speeches or other needs.

Sitting vacant for most of the past nine years, the room needed surprisingly little in terms of renovation. The main changes came in the form of fresh paint and new carpet and the addition of a full-service kitchen.

The Ballroom, which can host up to 200 people, will serve primarily as a wedding-reception space but also will host corporate events and other types of gatherings.

To accommodate events, CityFlats has added one full-time position and eight part-time positions, including an event coordinator and additional kitchen and serving staff. The hotel also has developed an extensive catering menu with Grand Rapids- and Michigan-inspired names.

“It is an extensive menu, and we offer different options as far as how you want the food served -- whether it's buffet style, plated, strolling dinner -- and then, depending on the event . . . every option is available, and, if it is not on the menu, within means, we can certainly make exceptions,” Madonio said.

“We can accommodate basically anything. There are some vegan options, but there aren’t a ton, so if somebody is interested in a larger vegan or gluten-free menu, we can accommodate that, as well.”

As with the hotel, The Ballroom will purchase some of its food from local farms and businesses. Madonio said it plans to purchase from Berkshire Farms, Michigan Fine Herbs and Van’s Pastry.

Madonio said the venue’s pricing is comparable to that of the Amway Grand Plaza.

She said the new space will help the hotel continue to grow in Grand Rapids and increase its competitiveness.

“It wasn’t in our plan originally, and a lot of boutique hotels remain pretty small and don’t venture out on these different business ventures,” Madonio said. “It will definitely help us compete and put us right up there with the top downtown hotels to come stay in or host your wedding or special event.”

The hotel’s Holland location is double the size and has been accommodating many types of events successfully. Madonio said that without The Ballroom, the Grand Rapids location was very limited in terms of types of events it could host.

Madonio expects The Ballroom will attract more overnight visitors to the hotel. She said occupancy rates continue to increase, especially during the past few months. The hotel is averaging 70 percent year-to-date occupancy.

“This is the best time for us right now, with ArtPrize and all the festivals going on downtown in the fall,” she said. “We’ve been completely booked for ArtPrize.”

In an effort to encourage visitors, The Ballroom will host a New Year’s Eve party this year thrown by the hotel, and CityFlats is in talks about serving as a venue for LaughFest in 2013.

“I think with the growth of the city of Grand Rapids, we just need more places to host people -- whether it’s hotels, events, restaurants, bars or any kind of nightlife,” Madonio said. “We are just growing so fast that we need more space for things to happen. We want to be a part of that.”

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