Focus, Construction, and Real Estate

B.O.B. plans begin to take shape

Orion Real Estate Solutions will partner with The Gilmore Collection.

September 5, 2014
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The Venue Towers
A residential tower and entertainment venue could become new neighbors for The B.O.B. Courtesy Orion Real Estate Solutions

A serious step has been taken toward building the next major residential tower in the downtown Grand Rapids skyline.

Last Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission met with Greg Gilmore, president of The Gilmore Collection, and John Wheeler, president of Grand Rapids-based Orion Real Estate Solutions, to unanimously approve a schedule for two planning-stage developments on property next to The B.O.B. — the Big Old Building that houses multiple entertainment and restaurant venues at 20 Monroe Ave. NW.

Gilmore, who owns The B.O.B., has plans to build The Venue, a four-story, multi-faceted entertainment complex, and The Venue Towers, a 20-story residential tower, on the northwest edge of The B.O.B. along Ottawa Avenue.

“We are excited to partner with Orion Real Estate Solutions to help make our vision for an entertainment complex a reality,” Gilmore said.

“The Venue and Venue Towers will expand and build upon our city’s legacy of creating an environment rich in opportunities for both local and regional visitors to engage in cultural activities in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.”

The agreed-upon schedule will involve completion and submission of the project’s conceptual plans to the city by Jan. 1, 2015, with final plans coming Feb. 1, 2015, and construction beginning June 1, 2015, according to a release.

The project, subject to receiving final approval, will be completed by Dec. 1, 2016.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for Orion Real Estate Solutions to deliver market-rate housing to downtown Grand Rapids,” Wheeler said. “We are grateful for the city’s insight and cooperation to date and we are looking forward to moving ahead with what we feel is a viable and impactful project.”

The Venue, which will be about 20,000 square feet, will feature a beer garden, food kiosks and space for national touring concerts, business retreats, weddings and receptions, and other events. The space will accommodate about 2,400 guests and add more than 120 jobs.

Venue Towers, which will be approximately 230 feet high, is expected to offer about 120 residential units. The first three floors of the building are planned to include an atrium and welcome area, the fourth floor will offer amenities such as a spa and workout facility, and floors five through 20 will be residential, said Jason Wheeler, director of Orion’s business development.

The top two floors might be turned into condominiums, but that detail is still in the development stages, he said.

A skywalk on the fourth floor will connect the building to the parking ramp on Ottawa Avenue, which would designate one space for each unit, he said.

The cost for the Venue Towers project is estimated at about $23 million, according to Jason Wheeler. Orion will serve as the contractor for Venue Towers, and Tom Tooley of Concept Design will serve as architect and designer. Orion has not, however, been assigned contractor for The Venue.

“We’re nowhere near ready to begin,” he said. “There’s still several steps of (approvals) we need to take … zoning, approval for the connection of the skywalk … also pursuing tax credits and incentives.”

Gilmore originally began plans for the project in 2009, but when the economy tanked, he requested an extension from the city, Jason Wheeler said. Although several steps are still needed before the city can approve the project, the addition of Orion has brought a confident backing that the project is likely to be underway soon, he said. 

“The city hasn’t lost interest or faith in Gilmore, and John adds credibility to these types of projects,” he said. “Greg now has three to fourth months to get his ducks in a row, hire the construction, get his finances, and we can begin in June.”

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