County May Buy Monroe Property

February 6, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Kent County Finance and Physical Resources Committee will review a property purchase agreement next week that may eventually become the site of the county’s next administration building.

The property is actually two parcels totaling 1.25 acres on the east bank of the Grand River at 511 and 525 Monroe Avenue, just north of Michigan Street and the I-196 freeway.

The land comes with a price tag of $2.425 million.

Could it be the future site of the next Kent County Administration building?

“Maybe. Maybe not,” said County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio.

“We’re looking at the property as potential for any number of things. Parking, perhaps, in the interim. But it could conceivably be a site for the county administration building,” he added.

County administrators have shared Calder Plaza with city officials since 1968. Gallium Group LLC has targeted the plaza as a location for a convention center hotel it wants to build there, as the plaza sits across Monroe Avenue from DeVos Place.

For a short time, county officials had considered the former Probate Court site at 180 Ottawa Ave. NW as a possible location for a new headquarters. But Delabbio said the Probate footprint was a bit too tight for that use.

What could make this deal more attractive for the county is that Kent owns a 90-space parking lot across Monroe Avenue from the land it is thinking of buying. The lot’s proximity to the property gives the county some alternatives for the future.

“We’re trying to develop some options that would provide us with maximum flexibility,” Delabbio said.

And that future may be arriving sooner than initially thought.

Administrators told the Business Journal last June that the county would likely stay at its current location for 15 to 20 years. Now, however, that estimate has been shortened.

“Maybe closer to 10 (years). Although we believe that the administration building is flexible enough that it can meet our needs for 15 years,” said Delabbio.

“But if there are pressures for us to move, and I mean significant pressures related to development downtown. We know and we’ve always admitted that this isn’t the highest and best use for this particular location (Calder Plaza). But I would say that we’re looking eight to 10 years down the road.”

Delabbio said the county also has spoken with Quality Auto Service Center at 516 Monroe Ave. NW about its property, which is adjacent to the parking lot the county owns and across the street from the parcels Kent is interested in. But those talks are in the preliminary stage.

A few years back, an investment group bought the riverfront property from the city and proposed a medical office building for the site. That project, however, never materialized.

Grubb & Ellis/Paramount represented Kent County in the negotiations, while S.J. Wisinski & Co. did the same for the seller. County commissioners may review the purchase agreement later this month.

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