Economic Development, Real Estate, and Retail

Construction date set for Studio Park

Downtown mixed-use development set for April or May groundbreaking; alterations made to original plan.

February 23, 2018
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Studio Park Renderings
The project includes 106 residential units and 18,000 square feet of retail, as well as a nine-screen cinema. Courtesy Wright Heerema Architects

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The ambitious Studio Park development is on track to begin construction, following the recent sale of the two lots on which it will be built. The current plan features some changes, notably an increase in the number of residential units in phase one and an increase in the square footage of Class A office space the project hopes to bring to market.

Jeffrey Olsen, partner with Olsen Loeks Development, said the northbound and southbound business routes on U.S. 131 between Cherry and Oakes streets closed early in February when the transaction was made.

“We also have some right of way work, which is the Ottawa Avenue extension and the utility improvements,” he added.

The utility improvements include installing a new traffic signal at the Ionia Avenue-Cherry Street intersection.

Olsen Loeks Development is a partnership between Olson and J.D. Loeks, who owns Jackson Entertainment LLC. Jackson purchased the two parking lots, Areas 4 and 5, early in February.

Jackson Entertainment is an offshoot of Celebration Cinema.

Crews will begin testing the deep foundations of the worksite in the next two to four weeks, and Olsen anticipated a groundbreaking in either April or May. The time frame will be contingent on weather. Olsen added there will be around 100 parking spots remaining for public use during construction, and the city will lease 300 spaces from Jackson Entertainment when the new parking ramp is complete.

Since gaining approval from the Downtown Development Authority in August 2017, the plans for the project have been altered. The plan is broken into two phases, and phase one now details 106 residential units, over 18,000 square feet of retail space, a parking ramp with 946 spaces, a public piazza and a nine-screen Studio C! movie theater covering about 45,000 square feet.

According to a memo from the DDA, the plans approved in August previously detailed 98 residential units, 32,000 square feet of retail and a ramp with 750-900 parking spaces.

“What we did with the city was done on a conceptual level,” Olsen explained, “and when we got to design, we were able to accommodate a few more (residential) units.”

The plans also include a 155-room Canopy by Hilton hotel adjacent to the piazza. The partnership with Hilton was unveiled early in January. Studio Park partner Lodgco Hospitality is tied to the project.

“It’s been a long process, and we’re excited to start moving dirt,” said Mike Postle, vice president of development and project management for Lodgco.

Lodgco contracted Pioneer Construction and Chicago-based Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Inc. for architecture. The hotel investment totals over $40 million.

The current predicted investment cost for the entire project totals $139 million.

Jackson Entertainment expects the first phase to be complete in late summer 2019.

Phase one has multiple parties assisting in construction. Jackson Entertainment contracted First Companies for the mixed-use development and Pioneer Construction for the theater.

Architecture for the mixed-use side and the theater is being done by Integrated Architecture, with Post Associates assisting Integrated with the theater. Olsen said Celebration Cinema has contracted Post Associates for previous projects.

“With a project as diverse and sophisticated as this, and with the intent to deliver it all to the market at one time, it was appropriate to enlist contractors who had specific expertise,” Olsen said.

Jackson Entertainment is receiving financial support from Mercantile Bank and through the Michigan Strategic Fund’s Community Revitalization Program.

The project also promises to deliver new inventory of Class A office space to attract new talent to the downtown area.

The August 2017 DDA memo highlighted a minimum of 30,000 square feet of Class A office space. Franklin Partners, a real estate developer with properties in Chicago and West Michigan, is tied to this portion of the project.

“We were very excited that Jeff Olsen and J.D. Loeks asked us if we’d consider being involved in the office portion,” said Don Shoemaker, partner with Franklin Partners.

The Franklin Partners project promises to deliver 89,329 square feet of space, with 7,730 for retail and 81,598 for office. The layout features a column-free floor plan and an open, all-glass window line. Amenities include 268 office-specific parking spaces, a fitness center and rooftop deck with seating and a catering kitchen for company events.

Shoemaker said the layout was inspired by office trends in larger markets.

“The rooftop space is what a lot of people in Chicago are taking advantage of — making that space that’s open and inviting,” he said.

Shoemaker added the on-site parking and high visibility from the highway should be key in drawing new office tenants to the downtown market.

“The signage opportunity for an anchor tenant, I think, will be really spectacular there,” he said.

Olsen echoed Shoemaker’s belief saying, “There’s not a lot of product out there for true Class A space attached to parking.”

Franklin Partners contracted Christman Company for the office build and Wright Heerema Architects for the design. No lender has been selected as of now, but Shoemaker said the company might look to one of the local banks.

Even though the project is ambitious and expects to draw new talent to the downtown area, construction of the Areas 4 and 5 lots still is going to take more than 500 parking spots offline. Josh Naramore, manager of Mobile GR and Parking Services, said his organization has been working to reabsorb users into new inventory for the past two years.

Naramore also said the switchover was a factor in the monthly parking crunch.

“Most of those folks were transitioned by fall 2016,” he explained. “That’s what caused the parking crunch. We’ve been slowly whittling down the number of parkers at that time.”

Part of Parking Services’ efforts to help relocate people from the Areas 4 and 5 sites was the development of the new, 300-space surface lot at McConnell Street and Ionia Avenue, across from Downtown Market. The Business Journal previously reported the site was a collaboration between Parking Services and Spectrum Industries.

Naramore added there now are only 21 people parked in Areas 4 and 5, and for various reasons, they have not chosen a different parking option. Some are working out of a temporary location and will be leaving once the site is closed.

He also explained the Studio Park ramp ultimately will deliver more parking inventory to the downtown area, even though the development waiting period has been a cause of congestion.

“A lot of this is we’re waiting for a facility to come online that’s going to bring 946 spaces, of which the city will get 300.”

Olsen said he anticipates being able to prelease spots for the Studio Park parking lot in spring 2019.

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