DeVos Place Under Budget

March 31, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Work on DeVos Place is under budget and on time, at least through the first two phases of construction.

“We do remain on track for the woodworkers show,” said Joe Erhardt, president of Erhardt Construction Co., which shares managerial duties for the project with The Hunt Group of Indianapolis.

The Midwest Industrial Woodworking Expo will open the exhibit space at DeVos Place on Dec. 3, about five weeks earlier than planned for the 160,000 square feet of exhibit space.

Bill Sewell of The Hunt Group said the third and final construction stage would begin on June 1, when the Lyon Street Square and Gillette Bridge will be closed to public access. DeVos Performance Hall will also shut down that day and remain closed until Sept. 1.

Demolition of Welsh Auditorium, except for its façade and lobby, will get underway in early June. The excavation and filling of the site will probably take until January to finish. The steel supports for the new ballroom and exhibit space that will replace the Welsh should start to go up in early February.

Sewell said that 90 percent of the bids for the third stage of work have been filled and came in under budget. That stage should cost around $50 million. Workers are expected to complete the third phase in January 2005. The books for the first two stages are set to close in November.

The Convention and Arena Authority revised the capital improvement budget for the new convention center last week by dropping it from $219.5 million to $211.25 million. The budget leaves the CAA with $840,000 in the project’s contingency fund. Whatever monies aren’t used from the fund would revert back to the board for it to use on the building.

“That contingency is uncommitted and the comfort level should be high,” said Dale Sommers, CAA project manager.

Sommers added that his only concern for the contingency fund was how much money would be needed to stabilize the Welsh site once it is dug out and filled.

Steve Wilson, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, reported that TSI Expos, the group bringing the woodworkers here, has sold about 600 of the 900 booths the firm requested for the show. Normally, a convention is considered large when it has 500 booths.

Wilson also said that TSI was interested in being part of the public open house for the new building. He remarked that TSI has offered to host woodworking exhibitions for the public during afternoon and evenings hours of the convention.

Wilson announced that the National Association of County Engineers has agreed to meet here and the Michigan Chapter of the Business Professionals Association will also meet here for three consecutive years. He added that the Michigan Horticultural Society would be the building’s second convention, as the growers will move in after the woodworkers leave.

“We have about 80 groups in our pipeline,” said Wilson last week. “Every walk of life has a convention attached to it.”           

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