Construction, Economic Development, and Real Estate

Steadfast Property Holdings renovates McKay Tower into destination

March 6, 2013
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McKay Tower renovation includes ballroom and apartments
McKay Tower is in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. Photo via fb.com

When the many renovations at McKay Tower are completed next year, there will be more than just a new ballroom, apartments and elevators.

There could be a cornerstone for a new Grand Rapids.

McKay Tower, located in the heart of Campau Square at 146 Monroe Center Ave. NW, downtown Grand Rapids, changed hands last May when Steadfast Property Holdings Principal Jonathan Borisch bought the 97-year-old building from former owner Mark Roller for $10.5 million.

Since then, Steadfast has implemented multiple projects aimed at turning the landmark into a Grand Rapids destination location.

“I love the building. It has so much history and heart. I’m so excited we get to redo it,” said Chaundra Derks, director of operations for Steadfast. “For years there have been so many spaces that have been unoccupied and outdated, so it’s exciting to see them being redone and the public can see it and share it. It’s the cornerstone of Grand Rapids.”


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It began with the ongoing restoration of the 10,970-square-foot second-floor, formerly Grand Rapids National Bank, which Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. is transforming into “The Ballroom at McKay” at a cost of just under $1 million, Derks said.

The ballroom, complete with towering marble columns, granite walls, a mezzanine and original “old-school” bank vault that will be turned into a wine cellar, will be used for weddings, business meetings, corporate events, luncheons and other activities, she said. It will be completed sometime in spring and has recently opened up pre-booking for summer, Derks said, although rental prices have not been finalized.

“Right now we are still deciding on pricing. I think the range will be $2,000 - $6,000 to rent it, but we’re still deciding,” she said. “A lot of this stuff, tables and chairs, will be included. You’ll have linens and glasses, so you don’t need to bring in an outside vendor.”

Derks is especially proud of McKay’s new apartment renovations on the 15th floor, which include three fully furnished apartments: a one-bedroom, which just went on the market, and two two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments expected to be completed by summer.

All three apartments have short and long-term lease options, free Internet access and utilities, washer and dryer laundry closets, and access to a residents-only “owner’s lounge” deck on the 16th floor, offering a full view of the city. Monthly rent for the one-bedroom unit is set at $2,000, while the two-bedroom spaces will range between $4,000 and $5,000.

There is a demand for apartments and lofts in the downtown area among younger professionals and those traveling here from outside the area who want to be within walking distance of the city’s attractions and businesses, Derks said.

The new apartments could bring talent and retail customers to downtown Grand Rapids, she said.

“Grand Rapids is turning into a destination place,” she said. “When we were designing to build this out, we canvassed other apartments around Grand Rapids and everyone had a waiting list. So I feel people are starting to notice Grand Rapids is a place to be, and having apartments helps us with filling space and giving everyone a place to stay.”

McKay’s redevelopment will coincide with exterior and interior work from now through August. The bulk of the work will be rust-proofing the structural steel behind fourth floor terracotta exterior. D.C. Byers Co., a Grand Rapids-based restoration contractor, will make the repairs under the direction of Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, an Illinois-based structural engineering firm.

“When we purchased the building in May, we did a pre-due diligence and we did a hands-on facade inspection, which WJE did,” Derks said. “When the report was done, they came back and said there were issues on the fourth floor water table. The joints that are holding the terracotta are completely rusted through. They need to be completely replaced for terracotta to stay where it is.”

McKay’s four outdated elevators also need to be modernized, Derks said, which is a job that Thyssenkrupp Elevator will perform over the course of the next year and a half. Derks said Thyssenkrupp will replace one elevator at a time, for residents’ convenience, and add an optimization system that allows elevator passengers to travel faster.

Currently, the two center elevators go up to the 16th floor and the two outside elevators only go up to 15th floor, but no elevators go up to McKay’s 17th and 18th floors, which Derks said are small spaces that contain elevator mechanical and electronic equipment and are not open to the public. Those floors are accessible by stairs.

When all the renovation and construction dust is cleared, what Derks hopes to see is a McKay Tower standing tall as a new cornerstone of Grand Rapids with more room in it for the outside world to come and stay.

“Obviously, we’d be happy to have anybody,” she said. “But if I was coming from out of state for a month, this would be where I’d want to stay.”

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