HBA seeks to break lease with KISD

March 13, 2009
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The Home & Building Association of Greater Grand Rapids is seeking permission to break its five-year lease for 5,700 square feet of office space in the East Beltline Avenue NE building it once owned.

The HBA plans to appear before the board of the building’s owners, the Kent Intermediate School District, on Monday to ask that the lease be terminated, said HBA President & CEO Judy Barnes, who has announced plans to retire at the end of June after leading the local trade group for 25 years. KISD purchased the building last year, and has leased most of it to Central Michigan University. The HBA offices have been on the top floor. The HBA constructed the building in 2001.

“As an association, we cannot afford to remain in this lease,” Barnes said. “We’re very hopeful they will let us leave by the end of March.”

Barnes said the HBA, once among the 10 largest in the nation, has been as hard hit as the industry it serves during Michigan’s protracted recession. The employee roster of 25 has been trimmed to four full-time and two part-time jobs.

The organization simply does not need as much space any more and has found a nearby location with about 2,000 square feet, Barnes said, although a lease won’t be signed until after the KISD weighs in.

“Frankly, if they don’t let us out of the lease Monday night, we’ll have to problem-solve what we’re doing from there,” Barnes said.

KISD Assistant Superintendent Ron Koehler said the intermediate school district, whose campus is next to the HBA/CMU site, has been looking to replace the HBA.

“We’d like to find another education tenant that could supplement the service we provide,” Koehler said. However, the build-out of the HBA’s third-floor pace as offices makes it less-than-ideal educational space, he added.

“Part of the issue is the economy, and the other part is the way the facility is configured,” he said.

Despite a membership roll that has dropped from more than 1,500 to 600, HBA services and events are continuing, although trimmed back, Barnes said. For example, while the deadline to enter a home into the spring Parade of Homes is today, as of Thursday 40 sites were lined up, compared to the more than 100 that used to keep builders and subcontractors working in a flurry to the last minute to prepare properties for opening day.

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