Focus, Construction, and Real Estate

First spec Class A office building in years proposed for downtown

The 12-story structure will replace a pair of buildings that were recently demolished.

February 13, 2015
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Class A Division
The South Division Avenue location features natural daylight, parking, walkability and other features that are attractive to young talent. Courtesy Division and Weston LLC

For the first time in many years, a speculative Class A office building has been proposed for downtown Grand Rapids’ urban core.

Preliminary plans for a 12-story office building on the corner of South Division Avenue and Weston Street SW were presented to the Grand Rapids Historical Preservation Commission Feb. 4 by Rockford Construction — the proposed project’s contractor — and by architect Lott3Metz Architecture, both Grand Rapids companies.

The next step is to meet the approval of the HPC and the city.

According to Rockford, more details about the Twelve Weston project, including ownership, construction timeline and lead tenants, will be announced in the next few weeks.

“Great downtowns of today work to maximize the opportunity for multiple experiences of ‘live, work and play’ in one neighborhood,” said Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction.

“We are setting the stage to create interaction with talent from many walks of life converging in this neighborhood.”

A pair of deteriorating buildings once stood on the proposed site of the new office building: at 41 S. Division Ave., which had an assessed value of $80,400, and 35 S. Division Ave., which had an assessed value of $87,300.

The current owner of both properties is Division and Weston LLC, 601 1st St. NW, Grand Rapids — the same address as Rockford Construction.

According to city records, the 0.156-acre property at 41 S. Division Ave. sold Aug. 19 of last year to Division and Weston LLC for $200,000. The 0.154-acre property at 35 S. Division sold on the same date, also for $200,000.

The former Pub 43 was housed at the site before the buildings were deemed structurally unsafe. Rockford Construction demolished the buildings in September 2014 after finding no practical way to salvage them.

“It’s incredibly exciting to think we can help bring vibrancy to this area along South Division,” said Charlie Secchia, partner in the Twelve Weston development.

David Weiner, associate at Colliers International West Michigan and something of an expert on downtown office space, called the announcement exciting, saying it was the “first pure office building proposed in years” for downtown.

“This means two things: First, our rates and our occupancy levels are back to pre-2008, so we’re really at an all-time high for the office market in downtown,” he said.

“Second, if you look over the last 15 years, there were a lot of buildings in Grand Rapids that had not been redeveloped, but going into 2015, there really are no more redevelopment projects in the core. Now we’re back to an all-time critical high in downtown Grand Rapids for rates and occupancy levels. The redevelopment projects have been so successful, those are basically gone now.”

The office market is finally strong enough to do a full office building in downtown, Weiner said. The important thing now, especially with the Class A market, he said, is that the finished product offers the amenities people are looking for — natural daylight, parking, walkability and other features that will make the space attractive to young talent.

“I think the list of tenants is really endless. You’re in an area where you’re going to attract the young urban companies that want to be downtown, but I don’t think it’s just creative firms. This is a perfect spot for a tech firm or a law firm,” he said.

Weiner said as recently as three to five years ago, most companies were just looking for cheap office space, but that has changed.

“People are using space smarter now to speak to their image, their culture — to their attraction and retention of employees,” he said.

As the consolidation of ownership in downtown continues, another important aspect of this announcement is that it has suddenly brought choice back into the picture for tenants, Weiner said.

“For people in the office market, this is exciting,” he said. “This is great for the city.” 

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