Developer Mayor Have A History

June 27, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Mayor John Logie made an effort at last week’s luncheon to set the record straight regarding his relationship with Blue Bridge Ventures CEO Jack Buchanan — for years, a tense association that has become even more strained in the past few weeks.

Logie said he hasn’t always banned Buchanan from his office at City Hall. In fact, the mayor said he worked closely with Buchanan, then strictly a commercial real estate broker, to buy property for the city on the near West Side for what eventually became the DASH West parking lots.

But Logie told the luncheon crowd that Buchanan fell out of his favor when Buchanan misrepresented to county officials what he told him when Buchanan first approached the city with his idea for a Calder Plaza hotel.

“After the second time this happened, I told my staff that I didn’t want to meet with him in the future,” said the mayor.

Recently Buchanan said Logie bullied staff members into not telling the truth about the cost and financial details of his current attempt to move the city offices and put a hotel on the plaza.

But Logie countered that accusation by referring to a story that appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of the Business Journal where Blue Bridge Public Affairs Counsel Ed Kettle said that city staffers were being very helpful and that the process was moving along nicely.

The mayor added that he received an e-mail from Kettle around the same time that praised city staffers for their work on the project.

Logie also drew partial blame from Buchanan for the county’s unexpected announcement that it wasn’t budging from Calder Plaza. Again, Logie used another Business Journal story to explain why county officials did what they did.

“I did nothing to help the county make its decision,” said the mayor.

Buchanan and Kettle claim Logie blames them for the police department not moving into the former Steketee’s Department Store a few years back. Peter Secchia, a good friend of the mayor’s, owned the building at the time and was close to selling it to the city four years ago.

But Buchanan was promoting the Frey Building for police headquarters back then. He owned a piece of that building at the time and a cost analysis done by Project Planning & Management Inc. reported that the Frey was less expensive to renovate than Steketee’s.

But it is quite possible that the relationship initially became strained when Buchanan and Kettle first explained their idea for the hotel at a commission luncheon gathering more than three years ago. Following their presentation, Logie accused them of trying to bribe the city.

The mayor hasn’t been shy about letting the public know how he feels about the hotel project. He has voiced his opposition to it from the very beginning and at every opportunity, and last week’s meeting wasn’t any different.

“I think what we’ve got here is voodoo economics,” said Logie of the project’s numbers. “It’s just a bad deal.”  

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