Construction and Real Estate

Developers tee up a building boom

Residential and mixed-use projects enter GR’s city approval process.

July 8, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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10 Ionia Ave.
A triangular parking lot at 10 Ionia Ave. NW is the proposed site for a 42-story building developed by Hinman Co. Courtesy Hinman Co.

(See interactive map below) A burst of residential developments has surfaced at the city level in the past month.

Developments have entered the public process on the city’s West Side, Downtown and Heritage Hill neighborhoods.

Three projects went in front of the Historical Preservation Commission’s July 6 meeting, and more will be heard at the Grand Rapids Planning Commission meeting July 14.

The Historical Preservation Commission tabled what could be the city’s tallest building, at 42 stories. The commission approved the conceptual height and footprint of the building, as proposed by Hinman Co., on a triangular parking lot, 10 Ionia Ave. NW, but needs more information and samples of the potential building material.

The commission largely wants more information on how the building will contrast with surrounding properties.

Portage-based Hinman Co. acquired the property in the mid-1990s and has waited for the correct time to develop an iconic building, Hinman Chief Operating Officer Rich McDonald told the commission.

“It’s been exciting,” McDonald said of the development in downtown Grand Rapids. “We appreciate much of the preservation and development.”

The proposed development would include a hotel and apartments.

Letters of support for the project were submitted by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. CEO Kris Larson, TowerPinkster Vice Chairman Arnie Mikon, historical preservation consultant Grace Smith, architect Richard Craig and Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids CEO Dennis Sturtevant.

Hinman representatives told the commission the development was closer to the Central Business District in proximity, and that the parking lot did little to contribute to the Heartside Historical District as the property had an 11-story building on it when the district was established.

“In concept, this is a beginning point,” said Emily Uebbing, commission chair. “But there’s a few more details lacking we’d ask to have in front of us.”

Following the commission’s discussion and eventual tabling of the Hinman project, the meeting was capped with advisory discussions on two projects, by Orion Construction and an unnamed developer.

Orion Construction of Grand Rapids plans an 80-unit, five-building development on 2.3 acres at 50 College Ave. SE and sought advice on the site plan and the four buildings that would front College Avenue.

If all goes according to plan, Orion would start the project in spring 2017.

“The neighborhood has been incredibly engaged in discussion around what happens at 50 College, and so they should be,” said John Wheeler, an Orion Construction spokesperson. “This is a historic neighborhood with class and character, and we see tremendous opportunity with this site.

“It is keystone real estate, and our proposed development fits within the vision of both the city and the neighborhood.”

Prior to an advisory hearing for an infill project at 363 State St. SE, the commission first ruled the current building, Clark’s Food Center, is non-contributing to the Heritage Hill Historic District.

Ted Lott, principal at Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture, then presented a four-story building that could replace it, proposed by the unnamed developer.

“This is a good time to talk about the building,” Lott said. “We’re not finished by any stretch, but we want to talk.”

Heading to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission meeting this week will be projects by Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids, plus a major development proposed by a partnership of Rockford Construction, Inner City Christian Federation and Meijer Inc.

The Dwelling Place projects will result in $10 million worth of development on three sites near Leonard Street, including demolition of a former elementary school on Pine Avenue.

The Alpine Avenue portion of the Dwelling Place project requires rezoning, while the school demolition needs to be approved.

Together, the development would provide nearly 75 affordable homes, meant to serve families with children in the Challenge Scholars program at Harrison Park Elementary.

The Rockford Construction partnership’s major proposed development, bordered by Seward and Stocking avenues and Bridge and First streets, also will require rezoning by the planning commission.

The multi-phase development would include three buildings and at least one parking garage, resulting in 30,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail, 45,000 to 70,000 square feet of office and 120,000 to 200,000 square feet of residential.

A Meijer concept store would be included in the second phase of the project, according documents filed with the city.

Building A would include 64 residential units and ground floor retail. Building B would include the Meijer store, other retail and four floors of residential. Building C would have ground-floor retail and three floors of office space.

The three buildings would surround a three-deck parking garage.

“This development seeks to first remove blight from the neighborhood by demolishing the existing buildings,” Rockford Construction wrote in an application to the city. “The redevelopment that follows will orient new buildings along Bridge, Stocking and Seward, and with appropriate setbacks will result in greater pedestrian and non-motorized accessibility.”

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