Construction, Law, and Real Estate

Law firm joins $45M downtown development

January 8, 2014
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Law firm joins $45M downtown development
A rendering of the $45-million Arena Place, an 11 story, mixed-used development planned for downtown Grand Rapids. Courtesy Orion Construction

A longstanding local law firm has lined up to be one of the anchor tenants at a $45-million development planned for downtown.

Miller Johnson, founded in Grand Rapids in 1959, has announced its desire for space at the planned Arena Place, an 11 story, mixed-used development at the corner of Ottawa Avenue SW and Weston Street SW in Grand Rapids.

The addition of Miller Johnson, which is set to occupy about 58,000 square feet in the top four floors in the building, means that the project has all of its anchor tenants, each bearing a letter of intent: Miller Johnson, DO MORE GOOD | Hanon McKendry, MINDSCAPE at Hanon McKendry and Meritage Hospitality Group.

DO MORE GOOD and Meritage will be investors in the development, as will Orion Construction and DTN Management Company, which is likely to handle the residential units, said Bob Blanchard, CEO of DO MORE GOOD.

Combined, the anchor tenants would amount to a total of about 300 workers planning to occupy the development.

Miller Johnson currently occupies four flours at the Calder Plaza Building in downtown Grand Rapids.

Miller Johnson is not expected to move until 2016, when its lease expires.

Work on the development is expected to break ground in late April.

The ground-up development received unanimous approval from the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority on Wednesday morning for fund allocation for the project’s utilities and water, said Jason Wheeler, public relations coordinator for Orion Construction in Grand Rapids, the project’s developer and contractor.

Tom Tooley, vice president at Concept Design, will serve as the project’s lead architect.

“Exceptional opportunity”

Miller Johnson’s move to Arena Place is ultimately about “performance and client experience,” said Craig Mutch, Miller Johnson managing member, who called the project an “exceptional opportunity.”

Preliminary designs for the firm’s space include “innovative meeting spaces,” allowing for collaboration between attorneys and clients.

“One of the most important facets will be facilitating a technology-driven environment for communication with clients,” Mutch said. “Expertise, efficiency and privacy are all key elements of a successful legal environment. This project, and particularly the new offices, enhances our ability to provide our clients with the best service possible in all areas of legal representation for years to come.”

The location, expected to be complete by the summer of 2015, also offers a chance for Miller Johnson to participate in the growth of downtown Grand Rapids, Mutch said.

“We are motivated by the growth in the Arena District and the role we, as a firm, can play in continuing to draw new energy to the area,” Mutch said.

“Orion Construction and Miller Johnson’s vision are the same for this project: We want to spark growth and development in Grand Rapids and bring our firm’s presence and creativity to a section of the city that is resurgent.”

Arena Place

Seven of the proposed building’s 11 floors are expected to be Class A office space.

Office space and residential space for 101 residential units will take up about 200,000 square feet.

About 17,000 square feet will be shared between a 10,000-square-foot retail space and a 7,000-square-foot Meritage restaurant on the ground floor.

The project will also feature three levels of 250 above-ground parking spaces.

Urbanism

“Everyone involved in the project wants to increase the density on this block to support the neighboring businesses and the local economy,” said Orion Construction Senior Project Manager Joe Kuhn.

“With the exciting addition of Miller Johnson to the project, we anticipate significantly increasing the number of employees in the building, residential units and parking spaces available, without expanding the footprint.”

With the exception of Miller Johnson, each of the anchor tenants is planning to occupy one floor of space.

DO MORE GOOD’s Blanchard said all of the tenants are coming in with a long-term lease, confidently showing their commitment to the project and downtown Grand Rapids.

Blanchard called the project “community collaboration,” saying that Arena Place will essentially be owned mostly by its anchor tenants, which make up a large number of the project’s investors.

Arena Place also illustrates the importance of mixed-use property, Blanchard said. Too often professionals are caught up in a “the chicken vs. the egg,” debate about whether or not to bring in people or retail first.

The project brings both, and although mixed use is not always a total solution, it could have a “domino cascading effect,” being next to downtown entertainment venues, Blanchard said.

“This project is the tipping point of (the Arena South) vision,” Blanchard said. “We’re going to be the first ones breaking ground and moving forward. When you’re going to add 100 people living downtown, a restaurant and professionals, it’s going to have a significant impact on the area.”

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