Gallium Drops County From Hotel Project

October 17, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Gallium Group LLC makes its pitch to put a new convention center hotel on Calder Plaza to city commissioners next Tuesday, it will exclude the Kent County Administration Building from its proposal.

Blue Bridge Ventures CEO Jack Buchanan, whose firm joined forces with Hines Interests LLP of Houston to form Gallium, made that fact known in a recent letter to Kent County Chairman David Morren.

“We wanted to inform you that, at this time, the county building will not be included in that plan,” wrote Buchanan in a letter dated Oct. 8.

The initial proposal to build a hotel on Calder Plaza included moving the city and county from the plaza and constructing new buildings for both.

Gallium dropped the county from the proposal because in June the Kent County Facilities Management Task Force recommended that the county stay on the plaza and not take part in the hotel plan. That advice drew support from the county’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee a week later.

“We were surprised that in June, the commission essentially rejected the possibility of participating in the project before we had even approached the county,” wrote Buchanan.

But County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio told the Business Journal last week that county officials have reviewed several proposals from Gallium and none have convinced them to get on board with the project.

“Other than that, I really haven’t paid any attention to (the project),” he said.

The city owns most of the plaza and all of the Government Center parking ramp below it. And Delabbio said that county officials have given a lot of thought to being next door to the hotel proposed by the developers should city commissioners enter into a deal with Gallium and the project goes forward.

He said the county’s main concern with that scenario is the HVAC equipment that heats and cools the three-story building is located in City Hall. Of less concern is the fact that the county may lose some parking spaces in the Government Center ramp, but Delabbio noted that the county can lease spaces in the new DeVos Place ramp when it opens in early 2005.

The county’s facilities management task force has begun meeting again. Delabbio said the group is looking at its plaza location and reviewing other sites just in case it has to move.

“We’re still very much looking at property that is suitable and at a potential timetable,” he said.

But if the county does move and does build a new administrative headquarters, Delabbio said Kent would do so without the help of a private developer.

In his letter to Morren, Buchanan didn’t close the door on future contact with the county. He wrote that they were committed to being a good neighbor to the county and were open to discussing any improvements that the county might want to make to the plaza. Once the hotel was built, Buchanan said they would be willing to restore the Calder mural on the roof of the county building.

“We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the Gallium project,” wrote Buchanan, “and remain willing to work with the county to ensure the best possible results for our entire community.”           

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