Focus, Construction, and Real Estate

616 to create another 24 hour building

September 9, 2012
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616 Development, an urban real estate developer and downtown property manager, has purchased the Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center, just east of Division Avenue. The five-story building with roughly 12,000 square feet of space has been vacant for decades and has spent much of that time boarded up.

But 616 Development plans to build a dozen market-rate apartments on the top three floors, reserve the second floor for its growing business and offer retail on the ground floor. The company is making an investment of $4 million into the project, which includes the acquisition cost.

The building’s interior is frankly just short of a wreck, and a lot of gutting will be necessary. But 616 Development principal Derek Coppess said the structure is built like the proverbial tank.

“It definitely needs some love, but we love it,” said Coppess.

“When we look, we look at the structure and bones of a building, and this thing is definitely built like a tank. When we redevelop, we strip out everything, including the mechanical systems. As long as we have a good structure, we feel confident in our numbers and everything.”

The renovated building will include lots of new stuff, such as a canopy marking the entrance, a rooftop deck, and a common area for tenants in the basement. A new elevator will transport tenants from the basement, which has a unique brick floor, to the deck.

“It will be a brand new building,” said Coppess, also a principal in 616 Lofts, the property management side of the firm.

“Every square inch of this building will be utilized, and that makes me happy. We’re really excited about this one because it really embodies what we’re all about, which is utilizing all the square footage in a 24-hour building style,” he added.

The commercial neighborhood is more than likely to appreciate the renovation. The location is one of downtown’s best, with the Civic Theatre, Children’s Museum, UICA, Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods and The Avenue of the Arts all nearby. The area also is marked by Veterans Park and Monument Square, which the Downtown Development Authority is planning to renovate next year.

“I love the location and I love how ugly the building is. There is so much opportunity there. Every time I drive by it, I just stare at it. It embodies what we’re all about, and I’ve pictured it (completed) for a long time. I’ve had people living in that place for two years now,” said Coppess with a laugh. “I can see it.”

Lott3-Metz Architecture, widely known for its rehab vision, is designing the project. “They really get it and they’re great to work with,” said Coppess.

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Derek Coppess, principal at 616 Development, said the company is making a $4 million investment in the project.

Jeff Baker’s team at First Companies will manage the construction end. “They not only understand, but embrace our model. They’ve really helped to make our prototype better and better for every project,” said Coppess.

The last developer to take on the challenge of reviving the building was Kendall Renaissance LLC in 2009. The firm was headed by Brice Bossardet of Virgin Soil Properties. His development plan also included apartments and retail space, and the investment also was listed at $4 million. But Bossardet wasn’t able to close on the sales transaction with owner James Azzar.

The DDA had agreed to help finance that project. The board awarded Kendall Renaissance a 10-year tax reimbursement of $218,000, a $50,000 building reuse grant and a $35,000 grant to fill the areaway in front of the building.

Coppess is likely to receive the same treatment for his project from the city and the state. He wants to see the building declared an obsolete property, which would provide a tax-increment reimbursement, and get approval for a state grant through the Community Revitalization Program.

“We’re working with the state and local government on finalizing the incentive packages. We’ve had a great relationship with them. We’re not done yet, but we feel we can figure something out with both the state and the local government,” said Coppess, who is expected to go before the DDA this week.

While Coppess said work on the Kendall Building would get underway this fall, 616’s other project is nearing completion. The firm has been renovating the adjacent buildings at 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW into apartments, office space, and the new home for Grand Rapids Brewing Co., which is being revived by Mark and Michele Sellers. They hope to open late next month on the ground floors of what were known as the Hawkins & Gunn Co. buildings.

Coppess said the project is on schedule and work is set to be finished by Nov. 15. He plans to have a model apartment available for showing during ArtPrize, which starts next week, and people can register to get a look at the model by going to or calling 504-1715.

“As for leasing, we opened up our waiting list last week and we can start showing people where they’re going to live. That makes it a little more real,” he said. More than 20 apartments will be available for lease.

Coppess said he hopes to have the Kendall Building done by next summer. “You walk through this building and it’s like a museum, like it’s been frozen in time. There are old dentist-office doors that are solid wood and beautiful historic doors that we’re going to utilize in all the units,” said Coppess.

“We really try to respect that period when people last operated out of this thing. So we’re getting giddy about it.”

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