Former commercial structure may receive historic status

October 9, 2011
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Grand Rapids city commissioners will decide this week whether to label a century-old southwest side building a local historic district. If commissioners agree to do that, it will be the second oldest structure in the city to be granted historic status this year.

The Century Furniture Building at 40 Logan St. SW is the one under consideration. It’s a five-story, brick structure that was built in 1910. The building is located just east of Ionia Avenue SW, and is kitty-corner from the site the Grand Action Committee and the Downtown Development Authority have targeted for their $30 million Urban Market project.

The building was originally home to the Century Furniture Co., a high-end furniture manufacturer founded in 1900 by David Brown and John Rickenbaugh. Rickenbaugh was the son-in-law of noted furniture maker J. Berkey, and Century produced furniture for its first 10 years in the Berkey & Gay building on north Monroe Avenue. After the company moved to the Logan property, Century built a major addition to its building in 1920.

Commissioners created a study committee in April 2009 to determine whether the Century building meets the criteria for the historic designation, and members of that panel said it did. The city’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission both endorsed the committee’s decision; the latter decided a public hearing on the matter wasn’t necessary.

“I think it’s good to know that the Historic Preservation Commission has been working on this and supports it,” said Suzanne Schulz, city planning director. Schulz said the building’s owners want to move the process ahead so they will be able to qualify their plan to create affordable housing in the building for the state’s historic-tax-credit program before it goes away Jan. 1.

Because the building isn’t in a historic district, the Century has to be designated as a district and not a historic structure. In August, commissioners designated the Rood Building as a historic structure. The four-story Rood, at 139 Pearl St. NW, is 138 years old and home to Flanagan’s Irish Pub. The owners, Rood Sixty North LLC, plan to create housing units on the building’s top three floors.

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