Construction, Economic Development, and Government

DDA to refund convention center bond

Board sets aside request for Morton House project most likely because of bonds.

February 15, 2013
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DDA to refund convention center bond
The DeVos Place convention center stands along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.
The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority agreed last week to refund a 10-year-old bond that helped build DeVos Place, the city’s convention center.

In 2003, the DDA committed $10 million to the building’s construction. The board paid cash for half of its pledge and bonded for the other half.

“It looks like it will save you $42,000 a year,” said Jana Wallace, DDA treasurer, of a successful refunding effort.

“This is a good thing,” said DDA Chairman Brian Harris.

Kent County also is expected to save $42,000 annually as it issued a $5 million portion of that 2003 bond, which has two $5 million series. The county also issued an $85 million bond in 2001 for the construction project, which is backed by revenue from the lodging excise tax.

“The county will be refunding their bonds,” said DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson.

Kent County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the county will refund its 2003 bond, but can’t do the same with the 2001 bond.

DDA members also awarded Lifestyle Kitchen Studio, 222 E. Fulton St., building reuse grants worth up to $61,600 for its proposed renovation of the structure’s lower level and first floor. Work will include making the building barrier free and more energy efficient, and installing ADA-compliant restrooms. A portion of the board’s award, about $3,600, will go to signage. Lifestyle Kitchen Studio sells custom-made kitchen and bathroom furnishings and offers design services. The business recently moved from Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids. The renovation work has been estimated to cost $150,000.

The board also awarded a $12,825 grant to Monroe Center Retail LLC, which owns the Mo-Div building at 40 Monroe Center NW. The money will help turn a single entryway to women’s clothing shops Gina’s Boutique and Lia Rose into separate entries for each store. The project will cost $17,000.

The DDA also approved a Class C liquor license for the Downtown Market, which is set to open July 1. The license is for the market itself and not one of its tenants.

“There is significant event space in the market,” said Kayem Dunn, DDA vice chairwoman, of the second-floor space.

“Obviously, the restaurants (in the market) would have their own licenses. I don’t think there are any tenants that would seek a license,” she added. The state’s Liquor Control Commission will have the final say on the DDA’s request.

There was one thing the DDA didn’t do last week because an item was pulled from the agenda before the meeting began. Rockford Construction asked the board for an obsolete property exemption certificate to help with its financing to turn the former the Morton House at Ionia Avenue and Monroe Center into an apartment complex with first-floor retail. The firm is investing $27 million into the project.

City policy requires that these downtown requests go before the DDA. But it was reportedly taken off the agenda on a technicality, as it conflicts in some manner with the board’s convention center bonds.

If the request is granted, the DDA would lose $317,000 during the 10-year exemption period, but would gain more than $200,000 in annual tax capture once the certificate expires. The board’s agreement with bondholders reportedly limits the DDA from giving up tax revenue in order to ensure that the payments are made.

Years ago, the county asked the board to stop capturing revenue from its two dedicated property tax millages and the DDA said it couldn’t do that because of its contract with buyers of the DeVos Place bonds.

The Rockford Construction request is expected to be on the agenda in the near future.

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