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The Blueprint Collaborative takes coworking to an entrepreneurial level

After working for 15 years for a large, local construction firm, Brent Gibson decided to strike out on his own. He founded his own construction company, Construction Simplified. His work kept him busy, too busy, in fact, to allow him time to network and make vital connections to grow his business. He came up with an idea—a collaborative work space that brought others involved in the construction, design, and real estate industry together with entrepreneurs servicing those industries.

In June 2017, the Blueprint Collaborative opened at 859 West Fulton. Gibson renovated a car mechanic’s garage, that had sat idle for a good long while, into a highly innovative work-space. He chose the location not only because he lives on the WestSide, but also because of the nature of the businesses he sought to bring together—a vibe he describes as being “a little more blue-collar, a different work ethic.”

“Our coworking and incubator space is full of industry-specific entrepreneurs and small businesses in the construction, design, and real estate industry,” says Kim Reed, Community Connector for the Blueprint Collaborative. “We are a small business full of small businesses. Our passion is to help people build their businesses and grow the entrepreneurial spirit of Grand Rapids.”

For $150 a month, drop-in members can access the space 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They can access all amenities, find a space to work at the co-working table, and use the conference room for meetings. To lay claim to a dedicated workstation—a permanent desk, lockable storage cabinet, and personal locker—the price rises to $495 and grants 24/7 access. Members who also want a large team room of their very own pay $1,250 each month.

“As a small business, the number one goal is to work full-time. It’s hard to connect and to build relationships,” Gibson says. “I used backwards engineering. Now, when I’m sitting at my desk six or seven hours a day and doing the work, three or four connections are walking in the door. That’s what the space really does.”

The Blueprint Collaborative extends free drop-in membership to college students in fields aligned with its industry mix. For example, two Grand Valley State University students working on inventing a mask for people working in deep freezers have used the space and its connections to evolve the product for construction workers spending long hours outdoors in cold temperatures. Another student entrepreneur is working on a heated tool box.

“Those are the golden nuggets I like to find,” Gibson says.

Gibson also wants West Michigan to push the envelope on what entrepreneurial means. He notes that the word commonly brings to mind a 20-something nerd at a computer inventing a new app. He believes that bringing an entrepreneurial spirit to any industry can take it to the next level. The Blueprint Collaborative is a space where professionals and students in the construction, design, and real estate industries can nurture that spirit.

“Most of the buzzwords these days are not focused on a tangible industry where you go out every week and build something. That shouldn’t limit the thought of entrepreneurship,” Gibson says. “I wanted to be surrounded by people in similar industries who have the same passion that I do—and want to build a business.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy The Blueprint Collaborative

A decade after opening its doors on Wealthy Street, The Sparrows plans new West Side coffee shop

After 10 years of rooting itself in the East Hills community as both a staple and catalyst for growth in the Uptown business district, Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newsstand is expanding its Grand Rapids footprint with the opening of a second location at 442 Bridge St. NW.

“We’ve always been a community space that offers really good coffee, and we thought we could do that in a second location, as well,” says Sparrows owner Lori Slager Wenzel, who initially planned on moving into another Bridge Street space owned by her friend until plans fell through. 

After a quick second round of searching, however, Slager Wenzel found the space at 442 Bridge St. and made things official, finding herself charmed by its history and likeness to her Wealthy Street space.

At 1,000 square feet, the new building space will seat up to 49 people, with renovation plans that include the installation of a new coffee bar and news rack with local and national newspapers and magazines. There will be the same menu as its Wealthy Street location, with the added offering of “cupping,” which is basically an educational process where customers can test coffee and learn about the different tastes and aromas.  

“The space itself, the front of it, is not that much different. It’s got a similar feel to our Wealthy Street location with the wood floors that opens up in back to a larger space,” she says, though its little-known history as Station A for the 1930s-era Grand Rapids Postal Service was a happy surprise for Slager Wenzel and her employees, who did a little bit of digging into the 442 Bridge St. location's past online.  

Although unfortunately the space doesn’t feature any recognizable relics from its past life, the history of the well-loved space is celebrated in its continued use by the people it was built for — the surrounding community.

“Part of what we love about our Wealthy Street building is the history of the space having been a hardware store,” she says. “We love that the Huizingas raised their six children right in the upstairs rooms.” 

Though no official grand opening event has been announced just yet, the plan is to begin construction on the interior build-out in the next two to three weeks after the city planning commission approves all of the permitting and paperwork. 

To learn more about both locations and to stay updated on its Bridge Street grand opening, visit The Sparrows online or find them here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Sparrows Coffee Tea and Newsstand 

Locally owned Sun Title expands Creston headquarters with 3,000-sq-ft renovation

With four recent hires to Sun Title’s commercial escrow team bringing its total staff roster north of 60 employees, the Creston-based real estate services company is wrapping up new accommodations this week for its steadily increasing commercial title division with a 3,000-square-foot renovation and expansion project.

“Candidly speaking, we’re just out of closing rooms,” says Tom Cronkright, CEO and co-owner of Sun Title. “We did not have enough rooms to accommodate all of the closings we have, especially in month-end.” 

The new office space is connected to Sun Title’s existing 9,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood and accessible from its main entrance at 1410 Plainfield Ave. Cronkright says restorations to the 100-year-old building’s original tin ceilings, oyster-tile floors, and original woodwork dictated the interior aesthetic for the new office space, which features four conference rooms, a private lounge and a large staircase to connect the main office of Sun Title and storefront access. 

“It’s a very tasteful expansion and the renovation will flow well with the existing Sun Title building,” he says. 

Cronkright opened Sun Title in 2005 alongside business partner Lawrence Duthler, and he says although they’ve been experiencing steady growth ever since, the past 24 months in the growing region have brought some particularly accelerated growth in the commercial industrial market as retail and rents continue to rise and the sale of vacant land and new commercial construction is up significantly. 

“A lot of the commercial industrial inventory has been absorbed— the spots along hot retail corridors by Woodland Mall, Alpine. Now, we’re still seeing purchase and sale activity, but we’re also seeing a lot of new construction start,” he says, adding that further activity is coming from the many commercial loans in need of renewal as they hit their five-year maturity dates. 

“There’s been so much investment and, I think, good planning that’s taken place throughout West Michigan that we’re really starting to gain traction,” Cronkright says. “We’re hearing about more and more, and experiencing more and more, cases of people from out of the area sending us resumes and saying they’d like to move to West Michigan for work, so from a macro standpoint I think West Michigan is looking good for awhile.”

With offices in Ionia, Grand Haven, Grandville, Cedar Springs and Rockford, Cronkright says Sun Title’s four recent hires all come with strong backgrounds in the industry, adding to the seasoned team of professionals there that have worked in tandem with the rebounding market to see the company through a successful decade of growth. 

“The old saying really is true that if you’ve got a good culture and you surround yourself with great people then you tend to grow, and that’s really what’s happening here,” he says. “Growth wasn’t really a goal, it has just been a byproduct of just trying to do the best job on every file.”

Cronkright sees plenty of opportunities for further growth in West Michigan, and moving forward, he says Sun Title will be focused on improving their communications as well as building up both new and existing talent in the area.  

“Over the next few years, Lawrence and I will be focused on building a great client base and investing in the people within our organization — building leaders, so to speak,” he says. “We have a philosophy that we treat every deal like it’s our last deal. You can’t take the business for granted, not one day. Not in our industry, for sure.”

Designed by Richard Craig from Craig Architects, Inc. with lead construction/project managers from Karns Construction, final touches on the new space will be completed by the end of this week, with next Monday slated for move in. 

For more information about Sun Title, visit www.suntitle.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sun Title

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Despite down housing market, Grand Rapids title company adds jobs, profitability

Creston-based title company innovates new business model, adds eight jobs

90-year-old building in Grand Rapids' Creston district renovated for Sun Title expansion

Sun Title's 30 percent growth spurs hiring of 15; three more positions left to fill

Creston Market re-opens after renovation with fresh produce, craft beer selection, new look

Developers gear up for opening of The Morton in heart of downtown Grand Rapids

With only one month until The Morton’s official opening date, Rockford Construction’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Mike Mraz says he looks forward to the project’s completion as the last piece of the puzzle for downtown Grand Rapids’ core redevelopment. 

“We’ve been active in downtown real estate redevelopment for over 15 years and to see the vast number of changes that have occurred in the city center in that time period is really remarkable, especially with a recession in the middle of that,” says Mraz, whose firm began initial cleanup work on the building in December 2013.

Originally opened in 1972 as the Morton Hotel after the former National Hotel was destroyed by a fire, the hotel was remodeled in the 1970s to become the 220-unit Morton House Apartments, which closed in 2011.

The developers bought the 170,000-square-foot building at the end of 2011 for $5.8 million, receiving funding in part from the Downtown Development Authority, who awarded Rockford Construction Co. with a $50,000 building reuse grant for the renovation of the facade, a $35,000 grant to help fill the areaway, and another $35,000 grant for a new sidewalk and streetscape work along Ionia Avenue.

Additionally, the DDA agreed to reimburse Rockford partners 75 percent of the tax revenue the building will generate, which over the next decade totals out at $1.5 million. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority also chipped in, providing a no-interest loan of $400,000 for the remediation work — asbestos removal and other cleanup — from its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Revolving Loan Fund.

With a fourth floor outdoor courtyard and an approximately 500-square-foot indoor space for residents to exercise and bathe their pets, The Morton will also feature amenities like a 24-hour fitness center and an exclusive discounted membership to the nearby MVP.

Originally 13 stories, Rockford Construction developers added a 14th floor to house luxury condominiums, with the lower levels featuring 25,000 square feet of commercial space and the second floor a handful of apartment units and other building amenities. The third floor has 15,000 square feet of commercial office space, and the remaining floors are all reserved for residential units. 

“There’s an indoor community room so people can host an event or a birthday party or anything there and that’s coordinated through our staff.” Mraz says. “We have the indoor pet play area and wash area and I think that’s going to be really popular. We’re attracting people with pets already and that was quite a nice amenity they mentioned by name and partially the reason they wanted to live there.”

Expected to draw 175-200 new residents who will live, dine, and shop at The Morton, Mraz says the new mixed-use is the perfect topper to a decade of redevelopment that is dramatically changing the city’s urban core. 

“So, seeing this building’s redevelopment as really the last piece of the puzzle — it’s not only just a building, but it’s more than that. It’s bringing that level of critical mass that is needed to keep a street like Monroe Center active and engaged,” he says.

For more information on The Morton, or to see floor plans for specific apartment styles, visit www.themortongr.com or visit The Morton on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Rockford Construction Co. 


JGR Real Estate overhauls former Stockbridge pawnshop to create new, modern office space

When Julie Grevengoed first opened JGR Real Estate back in 2009, the second-floor East Hills agency was born into a tricky time for the housing market. 

In the past six years, however, Grevengoed’s real estate and brokerage agency has managed to find its place in Grand Rapids’ residential market and as a result has recently opened its doors in a newly renovated Stockbridge storefront located at 600 Bridge St. NW. 

“I was in East Hills before and I loved it there — it has a great business community and was a great space — but I was outgrowing it,” says Grevengoed, who worked with Wolverine Building Group over the past few months to bring a run-down former pawnshop into the modern age with a massive rehab effort that brightens up its 2,500-square-foot ground floor with an open floor plan, clean lines and big windows. 

With the lease on her former Cherry Street offices up, Grevengoed says she noticed the space within the first 24 hours it was posted. At first glance, it wasn’t much to look at, but she says the building’s original tin ceilings won her over 

“I walked in and it's got these really cool tin ceilings and even though everything wasn't as great, that was something that I thought, 'Man, this could be really cool,” she says. “…It was just one big room when I got it and even though I'm using it as offices, I still wanted to maintain kind of an open feel, so we have a lot of windows.”

She says the residential housing market is in significantly better shape than it was when JGR Real Estate first opened its doors in 2009, and because her agency also includes a brokerage arm, she’s had more agents coming in to work under her license in the past few years.

The new space, she says, opens her agency up to a new residential market on Grand Rapids’ west side and allows for JGR Real Estate to continue to grow more comfortably. 

“I'm excited about this place because I have so much more room,” Grevengoed says. “I was really reserved in trying to ask people to come on board with me because I just didn't have a place to put them, but now I do so that's great.” 

To see before and after photos of the dramatic transformation of its new Bridge Street office space, click here to find JGR Real Estate on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of JGR Real Estate 

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Grand Rapids developer unveils plans for Cherry and Eastern corners

As a "next step" in the process to redevelop the Southeast and Southwest corners of Cherry Street and Eastern Avenue, developer Cherry Street Capital will present conceptual drawings of the projects to the East Hills Council of Neighbors on September 8th. These plans began to pick up steam after the non-profit Project Rehab decided to put the two properties on the market.

Back in June, Rapid Growth spoke with Cherry Street Capital about the plans to rehabilitate and add onto the Project Rehab building at the Southeast corner into 17 condominiums, priced between $200 - $400,000. They also plan to renovate the yellow house at the Southwest corner of Cherry and Eastern for office and possible retail, and construct five new infill buildings that will contain 33 market rate apartments.

The projects will be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission in October, as the properties reside in both the Cherry Hill Historic District and Fairmount Square Historic District. If all goes as planned, construction is expected to begin in Spring 2015.

Cherry Street Capital is also working on a large mixed use project at the corner of Lexington and Seward on the West Side near GVSU's downtown campus.

Conceptual drawings by Integrated Architecture
Source: East Hills Council of Neighbors

East Grand Rapids townhomes completed, 16 dwellings increase density three-fold for shops, eateries

Orion Construction has completed the construction of Bagley Townhomes, 16 brick townhomes stretching from 727 to 797 Bagley Ave. SE, East Grand Rapids, and has handed the keys to the purchaser of the final unit, says Orion Real Estate Solutions President John Wheeler.

The project to demolish six single-family houses and replace them with two all-brick buildings containing eight townhomes each was approved by the East Grand Rapids planning commission in 2007, but construction couldn't begin until five years later due to the economic recession.

Today, with all 16 dwellings filled, more than three times the number of people live in that same block compared to the number of residents in 2007 -- potential customers living just a few steps from the quaint downtown and its eclectic mix of shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

"(The country) got a transient situation with the last recession," Wheeler says. "People want to stay in their neighborhoods where they raised their children, but they have large homes they don't need anymore. The new urbanism is a really big deal, to try to provide products where you don't always need to be in your car, where you can get some exercise, have some fun, and get to know your neighborhood better. (Cities) need to pave the way for good developers who have the vision for homes that could improve the city for everybody."

Wheeler says Orion Construction was involved with the project from the planning stage through handing off the finished final townhome to the owners after customizing the interiors.

"People get creative with their homes," Wheeler says. "You build to a generic specification, then the owners worked with interior designers to customize the interiors by moving walls and adding upgrades. Everybody had their own ideas of what was cool and we implemented many, many details like contemporary lighting in the high ceilings and high-end cabinets."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Construction

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Grand Rapids' growing West Side attracts another business, 70 employees relocate with it

A new vibrancy west of the Grand River, paired with corridors of established businesses, has proven to be an effective attractor of companies looking for a downtown presence on the fringe of Grand Rapids' core. Next spring, logistics leader C.H. Robinson (CHR) plans to join west side entities like OST, Rockford Construction, and Grand Valley State University and relocate its nearly 70 employees to 10,000 square feet in Clark Place at American Seating Park, 801 Broadway NW.

The redevelopment of a vacant 1891 American Seating warehouse and the surrounding property into a mixed-use commercial and residential hub began in 2001. With the C.H. Robinson lease, office space occupancy is now at 95 percent, says Chris Beckering, director of business development for Pioneer Construction, the project builder.

"We hire a lot of young talent right out of college, and we want a high-performance environment," says Matt Albers, general manager for CHR Grand Rapids. "We have music playing nonstop and we like that work hard/play hard atmosphere. We don't want to lose any talent because of having an old-atmosphere office."

Albers says CHR plans to hire five to 15 people in 2014 and that many again in 2015. The wide-open office setting with Grand River and city views can accommodate 100 people. CHR plans to reach that number in five years and has the option to expand another 4,000 square feet, if needed.

"We're moving downtown for the vibe of downtown because that will help recruiting," Albers says. "We didn't want a space that was the old mold, and we wanted everyone in one big room to create energy. We're a Fortune 250 company, and to step up the office for that Fortune 250 company we want to step up the atmosphere."

That atmosphere includes daylight throughout the space, a kitchenette set up as an employee lounge, and state-of-the-art technology.

Design: General Office Products
Builder: Pioneer Construction

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of General Office Products

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Clark Place condominium sales success indicates demand for downtown Grand Rapids living

Clark Place condominium sales success indicates demand for downtown Grand Rapids living

The quick sale of 19 of Clark Place's 22 condominiums since June is a good indicator of market demand for downtown Grand Rapids residential ownership, says Chris Beckering.

Beckering is director of business development for Pioneer Construction, the builder responsible for transforming a circa 1900 American Seating warehouse into a mixed-use center of residential spaces and commercial enterprises. He says the market was ripe last June when the company launched an initiative to convert 22 luxury apartments into condominiums.

"The success of the condo conversion proves that there is just incredible demand for downtown residential condos, particularly on the west side," Beckering says. "We've seen a strong demand and steady showings and have averaged a closing a week since mid-June. Thirty percent of our sales were to tenants who had been leasing in the building -- three times the average conversion rate."

Of the three condos still available, two are two-bedroom, two-bath units -- one of which is the fully furnished builder's model with an option to purchase the furnishings -- and a three-bedroom, four-bath unit. All 22 condos are on the top (fourth) floor. Prices of the remaining unit range from $189,900 to $329,900. Condo dues are about 18 cents per square foot.

Clark Place is a microcosm of lifestyles with singles, couples, and families, and a wide range of occupations that include sales managers, attorneys, small business owners, and psychologists.

In the early '30s, American Seating filmed an airplane landing on the building's roof to showcase the marvels of living in a modern age. View the video here.

To find out more about Clark Place living, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

12-story Grand Rapids LEED Class A office building completes major updates, opens Panera Bread

An outdated circa 1985 Class A office building in downtown Grand Rapids has stepped into the 21st Century after receiving some key internal upgrades including a Panera Bread restaurant, a tenant-only fitness center, and a high-tech conference room that seats 50.

99 Monroe, often referred to as the Comerica Bank building or the Campau Square building, is 12 stories in middle of downtown that has never had 100 percent occupancy. Its new owner, Naperville, IL-based Franklin Partners, plans to change that with upgrades that it hopes will attract new tenants.

Currently 50 percent occupied with tenants that include Comerica Bank on three floors, David & Wierenga, P.C., Gruel Mills Nims & Pylman, LLP, and several other companies, the building connects to the city's Skywalk.

The upgrades include new first and second floor lobbies, a redesigned entrance to the Skywalk, new flooring, and demolition of all vacant offices to white box stage.

"The sixth and seventh floors are completely open and overlook the city on all four sides," says Julie Maue, tenant relations manager. "Franklin Partners is going to be constructing a new office on the second floor -- it will be our first office in West Michigan -- so we'll have a presence in the building with a concierge desk, not a security desk. We want the building to have the look of a hotel and we'll be there in the building to provide Class A environment if they have problems or questions."

Tenants have full access to the high-tech conference/training room, which features video conferencing capabilities. Maue says having the fitness center with its workout equipment and showers, plus the Panera Bread, creates a health-focused environment. The fitness center will soon add a personal trainer, and already offers fitness classes on flexible schedules to meet tenant needs.

The office spaces lease for $22/square foot.

Source: Julie Maue, Franklin Partners
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Franklin Partners and Jeff Hill

22 West Side condos positioned for fast sale to meet "exploding demand" for downtown living

The transformation of a former brick and concrete warehouse into American Seating Park's Clark Place (801 Broadway NW) happened half a dozen or so years ago, bringing a mix of office spaces and luxury apartments to Grand Rapids' West Side.

Real estate broker Brad Veneklase says high demand for home ownership in the urban core and a lack of supply means the time is ripe to convert Clark Place's 22 apartments to condominiums.

The 22 units, all on the top (4th) floor of the building, are occupied. Purchase options have been offered to the current residents, Veneklase says. Two condos are sold, another two under consideration, and anything not spoken for by May 1 will go on the market.

Each unit has 13-ft. ceilings, all-concrete construction, exposed brick walls, stainless steel appliances, and hook-ups for full-sized washers and dryers. Units range from one bedroom, one bath for $129,900 to four bedrooms, four baths for $380,000. Veneklase says most of the units have two bedrooms, two baths with an average price of $187,000.

"At $113 per square foot, the price is well below the construction costs," Veneklase says. "The average price per square foot for a downtown condo is $154.

"Demand for (residential) ownership downtown is exploding," he adds. "There is very, very limited residential real estate for purchase in downtown Grand Rapids right now, and what's there is 99 percent occupied and functionally full."

Eleven of the Clark Place units overlook downtown to the south, the other 11 overlook the outdoor amphitheater area to the north.  

Veneklase says one unit has a library wall with a rolling ladder, two have wet bars, one has two-story ceilings with a small loft, and a couple are corner units with views in two directions. All have parking garages.

A condo model is open for viewing. For more information or to arrange a viewing, click here.

Source: Brad Veneklase, Clark Place Condominium Sales
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Ohio real estate developer plans $13M apartment project on Grand Rapids' west riverbank

A former Ryder Truck maintenance and storage facility on the west riverbank of the Grand River is a prime location for 93 affordable- and market-rate apartments in Grand Rapids.

Woda Group, a multi-family housing developer based in Westerville, OH, received Grand Rapids Planning Commission approval to move forward on GrandView Place on the corner of Front St. NW and Tenth St. NW.

The development will be Enterprise Green Communities certified and could bring 20 waterfront townhouses to the west side, along with another 60 apartments, which will be mostly waterfront, and 13 townhouses along Front St. NW.

"Part of the reason to come to Grand Rapids is because Grand Rapids is a city on the move with a significant investment in jobs and development," says VP of Development P. Craig Patterson. Patterson lived in the area for 22 years before relocating to Ohio to be closer to the company.

About 75 percent of the units will have water views, Patterson says. Plus, 25 feet of river frontage is set aside for a walking/biking path that will connect to a path proposed by the city, park benches, and natural gardens.

"We are setting aside 24 of our family units to take care of the needs of homeless and disabled veterans, which is a very, very important part of this," Patterson adds. "We consulted with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and did market research to determine there was a need for this type of housing."

Community Rebuilders will be a lead agency to provide services and referrals for veterans who need housing, Patterson says.

The market-rate apartments will be on the market for anyone to rent. The affordable-rate apartments will be available for persons earning 60 percent of the area median income or below.

A study is underway to determine if the site is contaminated and needs remediation. If all goes according to plan, Woda Group will close on the property by the end of 2013 and construction will begin in January 2014.

Architect: Hooker DeJong
Construction: Woda Group

Source: P. Craig Patterson, Woda Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Purchase of Bridgewater Place is Calif. investment firm's first foray into Michigan real estate

When completed, the planned purchased of Bridgewater Place, one of Grand Rapids' largest office buildings, will be California investment company Hertz Investment Group's inaugural foray into the Michigan investment real estate market.

The 17-story building (333 Bridge St. NW), known for its sea blue mirrored-tile exterior that rises along the Grand River, was a foreclosed property with GMAC Mortgage and will be sold for an undisclosed price, says Michael Visser of Colliers International. Visser assisted Colin Kraay, the lead sales manager in the transaction -- a process that began in 2010 with marketing the building nationally.

"We had nine offers from qualified buyers," Visser says. "I think this is a tremendous highlight of the attention the city has received. Part of our marketing is articulating what's going on here. The first day Hertz came to tour the building was when ArtPrize was going on, and that kind of event really makes it easy to market Grand Rapids."

Hertz Investment Group owns and manages dozens of massive office buildings in large cities in a number of states. The company's website touts the firm as "specializing in the acquisition, marketing, and management of exceptional properties throughout the country, encompassing prominent high-rise office buildings, international market centers for fashion, gift and jewelry, historically significant landmark properties, luxury hotels, high profile theaters, large retail centers, and multi-family residential properties."

"Having national investors like this purchase an asset that's been highly distressed throughout its history will be a great thing for our downtown office market," Visser says of the building, which has changed hands several times.

Bridgewater Place has 353,000 square feet of leasable space, says Visser. Varnum Law occupies the top five stories; Spectrum Health is building out 38,000 square feet of newly leased space for its human resources department. Visser says about 30 percent of the building is available for lease through Colliers International.

The transaction does not include River House Condominiums, which is owned by a separate entity. The sale will close in 30-45 days, Visser says.

Source: Michael Visser, Colliers International
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New furnished apartments in Grand Rapids' McKay Tower offer luxury living downtown

Three new luxury apartments in one of Grand Rapids' iconic buildings will offer short- and long-term leases in the heart of the city's action.

A renovation a few years ago created rooms with a view on the 15th floor of the 17-story McKay Tower. Building owner Steadfast Properties, LLC has completed the buildout of one one-bedroom, one-bath apartment which is on the market for $2,000 per month. The 850-square-foot unit has granite countertops, a laundry area with a full-sized washer and dryer, and lots of closet space -- amenities that each apartment will have, says Operations Director Chaundra Derks.

Two additional units, each with two bedrooms and two baths, include living room fireplaces and will be finished in time for downtown summer festivities. Each carries a monthly price tag between $4,000 and $5,000.

All of the apartments feature interiors by local designer Kathryn Chaplow and come fully furnished, including pots and pans, tableware, linens, and towels. Residents have the use of the 16th floor lounge which has a wet bar and fireplace, plus the 17th floor rooftop deck which has a grill and patio furniture.

The views, depending on the apartment, take in the Grand River, Monroe North, Monroe Center Avenue, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, or Rosa Parks Circle.  

"We want these to be turnkey apartments where all you have to do is bring yourself and your clothes and have everything you need," Derks says. "If there are people who are working in the area for a month or so, or are visiting family, they can move in and we'll take care of the rest.

All apartments offer month-to-month leases as well as year-to-year options. If travelers need only a week or two, Derks says they will try to accommodate them.

For more information, contact Tony Pearson, True North Real Estate, (616) 780-0035 or tony@trunorth-re.com.

Source: Chaundra Derks, Steadfast Properties, LLC; Craig Clark, Clark Communications
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Bagley Townhouses aim to bring easy living to East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village neighborhood

Just a half a block from East Grand Rapids' chic Gaslight Village business district, 16 new townhouses rise on connected properties that used to have just six single-family houses. Bagley Townhouses -- eight units in two all-brick brownstones -- offer condominium living within walking distance of Reeds Lake, the lakeside Collins Park, and some of West Michigan's best restaurants, salons, and shopping.

Spearheaded by developer and lifelong East Grand Rapids resident Joe Hooker, the project extends from 727 to 797 Bagley Ave. SE. Main floor units offer front porches and 1,300-square-feet of living space with an optional basement buildout to 2,600 square feet. The units have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an optional third bedroom and bath in the basement level.

Above, the second floor units feature a front balcony, 1,600 square feet, two bedrooms, and two baths, with an option to add a Murphy bed in a possible third bedroom/office combination.

Standard finishes include granite countertops and hardwood floors in the kitchens. First buyers can customize and select upgrades.

"I started buying single-family homes in 2001, and bought six single family homes over six years and rented them out," Hooker says. "[The brownstone project] was originally approved by the city of East Grand Rapids in 2007, but due to the overwhelming forces of the economy, we couldn't move forward. About eight months ago, we decided to finally move forward and demo the buildings so we could start construction."

The project was re-approved in late 2011. Greenridge Realty (2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids) has a showroom with finishes options. Interested buyers will get help selecting their finishes from the Bagley Townhouses interior designer.

Hooker says seven of the units in the first building and two of the units in the second building are sold, leaving seven units available. The first building will be complete in January 2013; the second building will follow in February. Prices range from $289,000 to $319,000.
Source: Joe Hooker, Bagley Townhouses
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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