Architecture, Construction, and Real Estate

300 Ottawa Building undergoes $3M facelift

International architecture firm Gensler helps restore the Class A luster.

March 18, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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300 Ottawa
A new two-story, open-air lobby will highlight the renovation work at the 300 Ottawa Building owned by DP Fox. Courtesy Concept Design

A mid-century downtown office building is in line for a nearly $3 million makeover.

Renovation of the eight-story 300 Ottawa Building, owned by DP Fox Venutres, is underway and expected to be completed by May. Monica Sekulich, DP Fox senior vice president, said the plan is to upgrade the space, give it its own identity and retain existing tenants while attracting new ones.

The process began approximately two years ago, when owner-occupant DP Fox Ventures realized the building was falling a bit behind. Currently, the building is 65 percent occupied.

“We looked at the building and tried to brainstorm how to breathe new life into it,” said Sekulich. “We looked at multiple options and one thing was clear: We needed to do something.”

The renovation includes a new two-story, open-air lobby, along with updated common areas and improvements to entrances and the exterior.

“Our goal was to come up with a unique plan to set the 300 Ottawa Building apart from other downtown properties, while staying true to the building’s mid-century design,” said Dan DeVos, DP Fox owner and CEO, in a press release. “We believe we successfully accomplished that goal.”

The building, which was built in 1968 as an auxiliary to the Chase Building — then called the Union Bank Building — no longer played a practical role to its counterpart building in the late 1990s. As the physical space required for banking duties dwindled, Sekulich said the Union Bank & Trust successors had vacated the building by the turn of the century. 

While DP Fox was working with international architecture firm Gensler to build a large Ford dealership in the Chicago area, it decided to use the architect’s expertise to help bring some new perspectives to West Michigan.

A team from Gensler, which is headquartered in San Francisco, came to Grand Rapids and worked with DP Fox, CWD Real Estate Investment, Triangle Construction and Concept Design to figure out how to reposition the facility as one of the premier office buildings in downtown Grand Rapids, Sekulich said.

The design team also spent time touring Grand Rapids to investigate new office construction and renovation projects.

“We didn’t want to do a copy of another renovation that had just occurred down the road,” Sekulich said.

She said the existing 10 building tenants have been extremely cooperative as the construction team works through the meat of the project, which includes heavy modification of nearly 50-year-old steel and cement sections between the first and second floors.

Sekulich said the layouts of office suites of several tenants were changed, but the owner and tenants were able to work out the best solutions for the hindrance.

“Those are the tenants we’re most thankful for. They saw the vision and were willing to do what they needed to do for the greater good,” she said. “They’ve all been wonderful and the see the light at the end of the tunnel and are excited about the renovation.”

Another benefit of the building Sekulich said is easy access to parking facilities, which she understands can be hard to come by for some downtown office buildings.

Sam Cummings, managing partner of CWD, said the building’s accessibility should be a highlight for prospective tenants.

“Downtown Grand Rapids has many customers who have what we refer to as ‘intra-day and inter-municipality’ mobility needs — they can’t simply ride in and stay put all day,” Cummings said. “The 300 Ottawa Building ideally suits those who need regular access to their cars but want to be right in the center of the core downtown.”

Once the project is completed, Sekulich said 300 Ottawa won’t look like the same building. Two floors of office space are currently available, with spaces ranging from 2,500 to 40,000 square feet.

“To compete for Class A tenants, it needs to be a Class A space, and we felt we couldn’t bear that moniker anymore,” Sekulich said. “Now, we’ll be back in the game and compete for Class A tenants.”

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