A Property Sale To Go Forward

December 26, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — A property deal the city and Grand Valley State University agreed to 19 months ago is expected to finally close within a few weeks.

In May 2006, the university entered into an agreement to buy a 53,000-square-foot parcel at 609 Watson St. NW from the city for $948,000. GVSU planned to build 60 to 65 parking spaces on the site and lease those spaces to Bicycle Factory LLC for a mixed-use project the firm hoped to construct at 514 Butterworth Ave. NW.

At the time, the developers planned to renovate a former century-old bicycle factory, but a fire destroyed the building last February, and the closing date for the property purchase was postponed.

But now the developers, led by McGraw Construction Co. President Paul McGraw, are going ahead with the project. Instead of a renovation, the partners are getting ready to put up a new five-story building on the Butterworth site with three floors of commercial and office space and two levels of apartments.

McGraw told the Business Journal in October that GVSU would follow through on its commitment to providing parking for the project. The university even told McGraw after the fire that it would let the firm out of its agreement and wouldn’t demand payment for the spaces until the developer is set to proceed with the project.

“We had a pre-paid parking lease with Grand Valley — $800,000 — before the fire, and they called the next day (after the fire) and said, ‘We will work with you; we won’t hold you to it,’ even though it affected them financially and they were planning on it in their budget,” he said.

The city bought the property when it extended Seward Avenue to Fulton Street a few years ago and never planned to keep the parcel on Watson. The university has to remove a portion of a building on the site and is responsible for the property’s environmental reports.

The deal’s original closing date was May 31, 2007. The new drop-dead closing date is Jan. 31, 2008.

“We fully expect to meet this deadline,” said City Economic Development Director Kara Wood.

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