Grand Rapids' historic Harris Building makeover makes room for The Local Epicurean

The 110-year-old Harris Building in the historic Heartside Business District is built atop an underground river that has made its presence known at times throughout the building's history. The challenges presented by groundwater rising up from below and years of rainwater pouring in through a dilapidated roof above didn't deter the renovation efforts.

The ground floor of the Harris Building (111 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids) will soon be the new home of The Local Epicurean, a local organic pasta company that will have a retail shop, restaurant space, and a teaching kitchen. The renovation will be completed by late spring, and the building will be a 2013 ArtPrize venue.

Wolverine Building Group's Project Manager Dulane Coval says the underground river has not eroded the foundation of the building due to the foresight of the builders a century ago.

"When they built this building, they knew about the river, so the footings are really deep," Coval says. "We haven't even found how deep they are. We had groundwater two feet below the lower-level floor and we had to put the elevator shaft in at six feet below, but we never found the bottom of the foundations. I suspect they're great big old limestone, but I don't know."

Building owner Bob Dykstra of Harris Lofts has floated a number of ideas about what to do with the building, including development of a co-working office space. To-date, no additional plans for the upper floors have been announced.
In addition to conquering the water issues, the building, which has been empty for three to five years, now has an open stairway to the lower level, new HVAC, new roof, and it's first-ever fire protection system.

"The whole area is in a state of transition right now...The building next door (101 South Division) was renovated about three years ago, and there's new housing going in down the street on the corner of Cherry Street," Coval says. 

Wolverine Building Group has headed up construction of both of those projects, plus the development of housing at Division Park Avenue (209 S. Division Ave.) and Serrano Lofts (17 Williams St.).

Source: Dulane Coval, Wolverine Building Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor