Focus, Construction, and Real Estate

Work on Trade Center Building to begin soon

CWD is set to renovate the century-old structure to historic standards.

December 8, 2012
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Work on Trade Center Building to begin soon
Dan DeVos, Scott Wierda and Sam Cummings, from left, will begin historic renovation of the Trade Center Building at 50 Louis St. SW, in the first quarter of next year. Photo by Johnny Quirin
CWD Real Estate Investment is planning to begin its historic renovation of the Trade Center Building in the first quarter of next year. The landmark downtown building, which opened in 1896, will have its brick exterior improved and interior enhanced. Windows will also be added.

If the city agrees, the project will include creating a new enclosed skywalk from the Monroe Center 2 parking ramp, which the city owns, to the office structure’s north side. The skywalk will extend across Louis Street.

CWD bought the seven-story, 70,000-square-foot Trade Center at 50 Louis St. NW in March for an undisclosed sum from First Ward 2 LLC, and is investing $4.1 million into the project.

“This is exciting for us. It’s a great historic building that has been underutilized for years,” said Sam Cummings, a partner with Scott Wierda and Dan DeVos in CWD.

Cummings said Cornerstone Architects has delivered the interior-and-exterior restoration packages. The exterior work involves cleaning the street-facing facades, doing some tuck-pointing around the structure’s loading dock area, restoring the masonry and adding windows to the south and west sides. A rooftop deck will be a new addition, too, along with a fitness room.

“We are in discussions with the city on connecting the building to the parking ramp to the north. That has been positively received, and it’s actually a short stretch,” said Cummings.

On the interior, the lobby and common areas with more than one tenant will be upgraded. Only one floor has a single tenant. Spaces will be carved out for bicycles, phone kiosks and tenant storage. Both elevators will be updated and one will be made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. CWD also will install new mechanicals in the building.

Tom Nemitz, president of Cornerstone Architects, said the roof will be redone and the equipment there will be relocated to be less visible. The restrooms will be redesigned, as will the circulation pattern through the building and the elevator lobbies on the upper floors.

“We’re maintaining the historical features and using them in creative spaces, like in the old Masonic Hall,” he said.

The building served as home to the Masons from its opening until the early 1950s, housing one of the city’s first Masonic Lodge Temples.

“We are addressing many energy-efficient upgrades, security upgrades and technology enhancements. We are also being sensitive to the historic designation and are utilizing the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for historic rehab and federal tax incentives,” said Nemitz.

CWD may have the finished product certified by the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities, but Cummings said it is too early to know whether the firm will apply for SERF’s certification.

“We haven’t decided, yet. It is an historic building so we’ve filed the part-one application to the state’s historic preservation office,” he said.

CWD is in the process of filing for federal historic tax credits, which are worth 20 percent of what the firm spends on hard costs and fees for architectural and engineering work.

Cummings said CWD also will apply for a grant from the state’s Community Revitalization Program. Should one be authorized, it would cover less than 20 percent of the project’s cost.

The Downtown Development Authority awarded the project a $75,000 grant in September to help pay for the façade-restoration work and the installation of the project’s green-design features. The board also approved a tax-increment reimbursement of up to $391,000 to assist with making access to the Trade Center barrier free and to install the ADA-compliant elevator.

Orion Construction will manage the work. The Trade Center was remodeled in 1983 and 2005.

The building has some suites available on the second, fourth and fifth floors. Those spaces range from 2,500 square feet to 10,500 square feet. The asking rent is $16.95 a foot.

The Trade Center is in a key downtown location and close to Monroe Center, Van Andel Arena and the entertainment district that runs along Ionia and Commerce avenues.

Cummings said CWD has letters-of-intent from a few tenants and is seriously considering moving the firm into the Trade Center. Start Garden, Lee & Birch and other tenants already occupy space in the building.

“Things are moving along nicely,” he said. “We may move there ourselves. We’re designing that.”

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