Construction, Real Estate, and Sustainability

CWD to renovate Trade Center Building

September 15, 2012
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Although it won’t seek LEED certification for the restoration, Sam Cummings said his firm’s revival of the Trade Center Building will be as sustainable as it possibly can be.

In fact, the managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investment said he would look at another green guideline program for a possible certification.

“We’re exploring SERF, which is a much less onerous program,” said Cummings.

SERF is the acronym for the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities, which is based in Lansing. Joseph Maguire, a commercial real estate property owner, started SERF and serves as its president. SERF has certified dozens of properties in its fairly short existence and has done so at less expense for building owners.

“We’re also seeking historic tax credits,” said Cummings. “It’s an extremely challenging project.”

CWD plans to invest $4.1 million into the seven-story building at 50 Louis St. NW. Cummings said work will most likely begin on the exterior soon, especially the south and west facades. The lobby will also get a makeover.

The Trade Center was built in 1896 and served as a home to the Masons until the early 1950s. It housed one of the city’s first Masonic Lodge Temples.

“This is exciting for us. It’s a great historic building that has been underutilized for years,” said Cummings, who added that his firm will move into the building once the work is completed.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority awarded the project a $75,000 building-reuse grant last week that will go to the restoration of the façade and the installation of green-design features. The board also approved a tax-increment reimbursement of up to $391,000 to help defray the costs to make the building barrier free in accordance with federal law and to install an ADA-compliant elevator.

DDA planner Eric Pratt said CWD will ask the state for a Community Revitalization Program grant and the U.S. Department of Interior for federal historic tax credits to assist with the project’s funding.

“They’re proposing a complete renovation of the building,” said Pratt. “The building is 50 percent vacant now.”

Lee & Birch, a women’s clothing store owned by Nikki Gillette, has been located in the Trade Center for the past two years, and Start Garden, an initiative begun by Rick DeVos to fund start-up businesses, made its public debut in the building last week.

This was the second time the DDA provided incentives for the building. About 18 months ago, the DDA gave First Ward 2 LLC a building renovation grant of $25,000 and a storefront-renovation grant of $25,000. But to collect the grants, a developer has to start work within a year of receiving them, and Pratt said First Ward decided not to go forward with either renovation.

The firm sold the Trade Center to CWD in March for an undisclosed amount. The State Equalized Value of the building is $1.6 million, the same as the structure’s taxable value. Cornerstone Architects will design the renovation. Cummings said CWD hasn’t selected a construction manager yet.

CWD also holds an option to purchase some city-owned property on Fulton Street at Ionia Avenue, not far from the Trade Center Building. The site, which is currently a metered parking lot, is across Fulton from Van Andel Arena and at the south end of the Ottawa Fulton parking ramp.

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