Development Planned For
Long Vacant Property

March 30, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — This summer, a blighted property on the corner of a signature redevelopment in downtown Grand Rapids could welcome its first residents in nearly two decades.

Virgin Soil Development is planning to convert the former Central Bank office at 65 Monroe Center NW into six residential units. Firm principal Brice Bossardet has been working with owner Rockford Development on plans for the property for over a year. Rockford initially acquired the 6,500-square-foot building as the eighth building in its ambitious Front Row Condominium project — the 2005 effort that converted 51 to 63 Monroe Center NW into 10 luxury residential units and an updated retail strip in partnership with Belford Development LLC.

“I think it just needed a fresh look,” said Bossardet of the bank building. “I came in with an idea, which at first didn’t work, and now we’re finally getting something off the ground.”

Bossardet, who lives in the CityView condominium project across the street at 60 Monroe Center NW, will locate his corporate office in the garden, or basement, level of the building. The main floor will be split into four loft-style residential units ranging in size from 750 square feet to 1,100 square feet. A 1,000-square-foot unit will be built in the rear portion of the second floor. The front portion of that floor will be combined with a rooftop addition to create a 3,800-square-foot luxury unit.

Only the rear units on the bottom floor are not yet reserved. The roughly 1,000-square-foot units are priced at $294,000 and $299,000.

After the addition and $2 million makeover, Bossardet expects the property to yield 11,205 total sellable square feet. Lott3Metz is the architect for the renovation, which will use modern materials to create a gray and tan façade similar in appearance to the building’s original Art Deco style. A vault once used by the bank will be torn out during demolition; a smaller safe will remain in the Virgin Soil office.

Bossardet will approach the Downtown Development Authority for a $50,000 reuse incentive grant next week. Pending that decision, the first units could be finished within three months of groundbreaking. The entire project should be completed by September.

In a departure from most of the neighboring buildings, there will be no commercial space in the Monroe Center frontage. Like its neighbors, the building, which for a period in the 1980s served as the West Michigan headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is located within the Monroe Center Renaissance Zone, relieving residents of nearly all state and local taxes until 2017.

“It’s different, and there are people looking for different,” Bossardet said. “It’s a boutique development, limited quantity. If you look at the developments where people are just buying for the Ren Zone, where there is going to be that mass exodus when it runs out, there will be 15-20 units for sale just like yours. These are unique.”

Bossardet is also working with Rockford Development to market the final units in the Front Row project.   

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