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MJLO

The politics of developement

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Does anyone else find the Historic Preservation Commission hypocritical? That they would Block a condo project proposed at Division and Fulton, because of the long time vacant Junior Achievement Building. They stood by and let the Isreals building, which was not only occupied when it was bought, but well maintained an ornate, Be cleared for Demolition! It would seem to me that a "commision" Dedicated to preserving our "history" would be largely fierce in battling anything that held some historical significance.

Does anyone else see the imbalance between, the rundown two story building that could be found on any mainstreet in America, which was protected, and an architectually unique building that has been well kept, which was ignored? Me personally, I don't have attachments to any of these buildings, I will not shed tears for them. I am a progressive thinker, and would love to see Grand Rapids finally develope into the city we have been building for decades.

It seems that any developement, that doesn't have the Name Devos or Alticor attached to it is NON-Gratta. Potential Developers, are often battled, and fenced in by so much red tape, they are delayed for years until they eventually give up. Am I wrong in thinking that The leadership of this area, and yes the deities of the HPC cater to a couple of wealthy benefactors, while making it virtually impossible, or completely impossible for other interested developers to enter this market ?

I do appreciate what The Devos's and Van Andels have done for this area, in terms of investment, which has led to the resurgence of downtown and surrounding areas. I just feel they have a monopoly on developement, and it's an impediment in the potential growth we could be having!

enlighten me....

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I think the historic preservation commitee is a little overbearing, and could relax its grip a bit. Its requirements on houses are rediculous. They have had incidents where they wouldnt allow a household to remove the lead paint in their own home because it wasnt historic enough.

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lead paint?!?! damn now thats terrifiying... Some commission telling me that I can't remove the stuff that can poison me and anyone who walks into my home.

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I agree with MJLO. Unfortunately, with such strict regulations on buildings, they become undevelopable. And unless the developer has very deep pockets, she/he cannot afford to borrow the money to work on the project because it takes so long to fight the outdated codes and regulations.

There has to be an economic incentive for the property...yes, it is cheaper to build another walmart on some field. For this reason the city needs to provide more incentives to develop downtown, not make it impossible.

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Is the preservation committee an official city commision with real recomendation authority or is this some group of like-minded people offering their "professional" opinion?

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Is the preservation committee an official city commision with real recomendation authority or is this some group of like-minded people offering their "professional" opinion?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Its a federally mandated commission for every city. its up to the city to staff it.

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Thats what I thought... Sounds like it's more of a pain half the time then what it was really ment to be... Or are these members in someones pockets? I'm not making accusations, but the comment:

"Am I wrong in thinking that The leadership of this area, and yes the deities of the HPC cater to a couple of wealthy benefactors, while making it virtually impossible, or completely impossible for other interested developers to enter this market ?"

really gets to me, because it sounds all to plausiable in GR...

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The historic commission has both good and bad aspects. Azzar has been trying to rip the Keeler Building down for years and they have stopped him. However, the JA building has no real signifigance. I do think that it is a style that is rare to downtown, but it isn't really special.

I do think in the case of the JA building though, it was not a MUST to knock it down. The Condo development can use the space, build up a couple of stories and in the meantime, make the building look nice.

I do think a "Stupid Commission" would be nice. Maybe it would stop people from building bars that give advice from preaching bartenders (Grace's) or stop people from building the "first (and only) mall for children". ;)

Joe

Thats what I thought... Sounds like it's more of a pain half the time then what it was really ment to be... Or are these members in someones pockets? I'm not making accusations, but the comment:

"Am I wrong in thinking that The leadership of this area, and yes the deities of the HPC cater to a couple of wealthy benefactors, while making it virtually impossible, or completely impossible for other interested developers to enter this market ?"

really gets to me, because it sounds all to plausiable in GR...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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The HPC has to choose it battles wisely. It could have gone to war over the Isreal's building, but the Alticor project was just to big and important. It was almost a sure defeat. I do believe that they could have preserved the building. It would be light-years ahead what is going there now. Last time I heard it was going to be pretty much a blank corner. Too bad.

I do think that we need an Urban Preservation Comission. Their main mission would be to prevent the demolision of buldings in GR for larger parking lots, strip malls, and junk architecture which, in the DT area, is in abundance. Many great places could have been saved in the past 25 years if such a thing was in place.

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The demise of city hall was the catalyst for historic preservation. If only they had succeeded with City Hall. Every time I go to the Museum and look at the exhibits and tile floors it makes me sick. :sick:

Joe

Well, for starters, the old city hall... but that was longer then 25 years ago.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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Well, for starters, the old city hall... but that was longer then 25 years ago.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Youre right! Unfortunately historic or urban preservation wasnt even on the radar screen of most people at that time. 25 years ago, there were still great buildings going the to wrecking ball even with all the awareness for the need to preserve many of these places. I wish the drive then to preserve was as strong as it is now. Some true gems ended up being, IMHO, lost for nothing.

Btw, I also get a sick feeling when I look at the old phots of downtown. Every building in those photos that was lost for parking lots, and chessy 60's and 70's architecture is enough to make anyone upchuck! I personaly would have loved to have been outside of Mckay Tower in the 40's or 50's on a Saturday! The crowds, street cars and stores...

That would have been a sight to behold!

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I do understand the necessity of the HPC, I just believe instead of being purely devoted to the preservation of our history, they have become a more worldly orginazation playing in politics and conspiracy.

And I want to know why, it seems so damn hard for anyone other than Richard devos to build a building in this town that may have some architectual significance, and god forbid, more than ten floors.

Tell me how leaving and empty, ugly, two story, obscure building downtown benefits anyone? Whether it could be left standing or not, would you, as a business person/ Developer want to build a multi multi million dollar condominium project right in front of one of the biggest eyesores in the city? Would you as a tenant like to look out your window and see the JA everymorning?

I question the rationality of some of the decisions made by the HPC in recent years. Somethings must be protected, but somethings noone will lose sleep over. The Keeler building, does anyone just marvel at the beauty of the empty shell that sits at fountain and Division? I don't think there are any plans, anytime soon to attract people to that building. How does it benefit the city?

It seems to me, that certain factions of the city government are, obstructionists to progress and growth. That eventually whats going to happen is people are going to get fed up with trying, and just leave the city. And what we'll be left with is a bunch of "historically siginficant structures" that are empty and rotting. Because noone will allow anything new in their places.

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They are also being way too aggressive with Catholic Central wanting to rip down the uptown cleaners building. 1) It's polluted beyond belief, 2) The owner says the upkeep of the building is driving him out of business and 3) Catholic Central would add some nice greenspace (not a parking lot). I think the HPC should back off on this one.

Joe

I do understand the necessity of the HPC,  I just believe instead of being purely devoted to the preservation of our history, they have become a more worldly orginazation playing in politics and conspiracy.

And I want to know why, it seems so damn hard for anyone other than Richard devos to build a building in this town that may have some architectual significance, and god forbid, more than ten floors.

Tell me how leaving and empty, ugly, two story, obscure building downtown benefits anyone?  Whether it could be left standing or not, would you, as a business person/ Developer want to build a multi multi million dollar condominium project right in front of one of the biggest eyesores in the city?  Would you as  a tenant like to look out your window and see the JA everymorning?

I question the rationality of some of the decisions made by the HPC in recent years.  Somethings must be protected, but somethings noone will lose sleep over.  The Keeler building,  does anyone just marvel at the beauty of the empty shell that sits at fountain and Division?  I don't think there are any plans, anytime soon to attract people to that building.  How does it benefit the city?

It seems to me, that certain factions of the city government are, obstructionists to progress and growth.  That eventually whats going to happen is people are going to get fed up with trying, and just leave the city.  And what we'll be left with is a bunch of "historically siginficant structures" that are empty and rotting.  Because noone will allow anything new in their places.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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They are also being way too aggressive with Catholic Central wanting to rip down the uptown cleaners building. 1) It's polluted beyond belief, 2) The owner says the upkeep of the building is driving him out of business and 3) Catholic Central would add some nice greenspace (not a parking lot). I think the HPC should back off on this one.

Joe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I didnt know that, man uptown cleaners is a wreck :blink:

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They are also being way too aggressive with Catholic Central wanting to rip down the uptown cleaners building. 1) It's polluted beyond belief, 2) The owner says the upkeep of the building is driving him out of business and 3) Catholic Central would add some nice greenspace (not a parking lot). I think the HPC should back off on this one.

Joe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree that that building is a total waste of space. I honestly hope that CC is being honest with their plans though. It just dosent make sense that a site as contaminated as this could ever become a green space of any type. I just have a funny feeling that CC is just singing a tune so that, in a few months time, they can declare the green space project a failure and conviently start moving in the cars for there new student parking area. I know they have a huge parking crunch in there existing lots and this area is right next door. Again, I hope I'm wrong, but I also saw how First Part Church never got around to building their youth center that was supposed to go on the site of the former Purple East building. They instead expanded there parking lot.

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I do understand the necessity of the HPC,  I just believe instead of being purely devoted to the preservation of our history, they have become a more worldly orginazation playing in politics and conspiracy.

And I want to know why, it seems so damn hard for anyone other than Richard devos to build a building in this town that may have some architectual significance, and god forbid, more than ten floors.

Tell me how leaving and empty, ugly, two story, obscure building downtown benefits anyone?  Whether it could be left standing or not, would you, as a business person/ Developer want to build a multi multi million dollar condominium project right in front of one of the biggest eyesores in the city?  Would you as  a tenant like to look out your window and see the JA everymorning?

I question the rationality of some of the decisions made by the HPC in recent years.  Somethings must be protected, but somethings noone will lose sleep over.  The Keeler building,  does anyone just marvel at the beauty of the empty shell that sits at fountain and Division?  I don't think there are any plans, anytime soon to attract people to that building.  How does it benefit the city?

It seems to me, that certain factions of the city government are, obstructionists to progress and growth.  That eventually whats going to happen is people are going to get fed up with trying, and just leave the city.  And what we'll be left with is a bunch of "historically siginficant structures" that are empty and rotting.  Because noone will allow anything new in their places.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It all depends on what exactly is progress and growth. If, in the case of the Keeler building, progress is tearing down the building and creating a block long surface parking lot, then thats not much in the way of progress. I agree that the HPC should not stand in the way of good projects that replace a building that can be historical but not priceless. But to just wipe away all of them for somthing "new", like GR did in the 60's and 70's, is just as extreme. Developers have to realize that they dont build in a vacuum. Their projects have real impact on the area around them. If they actualy spent more time on the design of their projects, the HPC, in most cases, wouldnt even be a factor. Public support would be for the new not the old.

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I wish we could re-renew the 60's and 70's stuff, those buildings along Ottawa, are boring, and will make Grand Rapids a "midget city" for decades to come!

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You all have good points. I think it's about time you all get together and type up a letter for the Public Pulse section of the Press...

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Agreed. And that is what I think the HPC is worried about. I would rather have the Googie -esque (if you are unfamiliar with the Googie style, check out this site. I personally like a little Googie once in a while. :) ) architecture of the Uptown building than some nasty litter filled parking lot. The last thing this city needs is another undeveloped lot! :)

Joe

I agree that that building is a total waste of space. I honestly hope that CC is being honest with their plans though. It just dosent make sense that a site as contaminated as this could ever become a green space of any type. I just have a funny feeling that CC is just singing a tune so that, in a few months time, they can declare the green space project a failure and conviently start moving in the cars for there new student parking area. I know they have a huge parking crunch in there existing lots and this area is right next door. Again, I hope I'm wrong, but I also saw how First Part Church never got around to building their youth center that was supposed to go on the site of the former Purple East building. They instead expanded there parking lot.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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Here's my take on the Historical Preservation Society.

Consider it the last-line defense in favor of architecturally or historically significant buildings, ugly as they may be. The HPS is an advocate for the buildings, so to speak. But if enough people have enough truly valid reasons to slate such a building for demolition, and those reasons outweigh the benefits of keeping the building in place, the HPS does eventually back down. It puts up a good fight, and rightly so, in view of what happened to City Hall in the late 60s. They want to make sure something like that never happens again. If HPS had been existence back then, there was enough support and public outcry that would have prevented the demolition of City Hall.

Now we have a butt-ugly building on the corner of Fulton and Division (JA), wasting away on prime real estate. If enough historical-savvy people lobby for its demolition, HPS will eventually cave in. The key is: historical-savvy people, not just RICH people.

We really need the HPS. Think what would happen if it was sooo easy to demolish a building that perhaps only a few people didn't like. We would have a repeat of the '60s.

Budgie

P.S. The reason it seems "so damn hard for anyone other than Richard DeVos to build a building in this town that may have some architectual significance, and god forbid, more than ten floors," to quote MJLO, is that DeVos has $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and political clout. Yes, money talks. (But you already know this.)

The problem is, it doesn't know when to stop yakking.

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Hi, everyone.

My two cents ...

The Historic Preservation Commission is a body of the city government. The City Commission appoints its members. I am dubious of its benefits.

I live in Heritage Hill so I've had to deal with the HPC a few times as I renovated -- not restored -- my house over the years. For the most part my renovation project went through without issue because my architect was a former member of the HPC and knew many of the members. Yet after I had completed the renovation per the plans submitted and approved by the HPC, a warrant was issued for my arrest because I used a clear stain instead of a colored one for the cedar siding on my house.

So I have found the HPC to be a bit arbitrary. Another example was a complaint filed with HPC against an elderly woman who lived on Heritage Hill. She replaced a broken pipe railing for her front porch steps with a wooden one. The head of the HPC chided her for doing so and ordered the pipe railing to be replaced because that was what happened to be there in '71.

Another problem is that some HPC members and ex-members offer services as consultants for big projects either seeking historic status to be eligible for state and federal tax credits or trying to avoid historic status to change or demolish a building. So a lot of these decisions are inside baseball. Other times a developer simply has the political clout, like DeVos had to get the OK to demolish the Israel's building.

As to why DeVos should have much clout around here is a bit of mystery. It's not the bucks. If you examine their deals closely, neither the DeVos nor Van Andel families operate as though they are billionaires. I think the cupboard's bare, but none of the suck-ups in G.R. have figured that out yet.

Regards, Bill

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Bill:

The DeVos family is one of the biggest campaign contributors to the Republican party in the U.S. Huge. So I would say that, yes, indirectly it is the money that gives them the clout even if they don't act like billionaires. Don't be fooled.

Plus, of course, their connections. Made with money in many circumstances.

I cannot believe a warrant was issued for your arrest for using clear stain! Did you frame it?

I, too, lived in HH for many, many years, and I have served on the HHA Board. I attended one of the Historical Preservation Association meetings regarding the building (its name escapes me - MacCauley?) that was the center of dispute regarding putting in a parking lot for St. Mary's vs. mothballing the building. I thought they were quite fair in hearing both sides.

In addition, my ex and I have done battle with the HPA regarding gutters, downspouts, and that furnace exhaust thingee that the new-fangled energy-efficient furnaces use (because it sticks out more than 6 inches or whatever). In the end, however, we found that they were very reasonable, and they compromised with us on a few issues.

But in the end, there are those times when money/politics talk and the HPA caves in (e.g., Israel building).

Nothing is perfect, and I think having the HPA is better than not having it at all.

Budgie

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Give me an HPA that will save the old Art Museum but let the JA go for something better. Nothing could serve the center city better than some new founded developement.

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Hi, Budgie.

>>The DeVos family is one of the biggest campaign contributors to the Republican party in the U.S. Huge. So I would say that, yes, indirectly it is the money that gives them the clout even if they don't act like billionaires. Don't be fooled.<<

I'm not fooled. I'll tell you a story someday about how Rich DeVos bought the U.S. Senate to get Butterworth and Blodgett Hospitals merged. ;) Even that "contribution" was chump change; DeVos didn't need to be a billionaire to make it. It's surprising how little money it takes to buy access in politics.

This is especially the case with city elected officials. In fact, I don't think any of them have received campaign contributions from either the DeVoses or Van Andels. Plus, with the possible exception of Rabaut, none of the city commissioners are Republicans, so that brings me back to scratching my head over why the City Commission caved in to DeVos's demands regarding his new hotel project.

I suspect the truth lies in the culture of River City: We go along to get along. We're easily impressed by wealth -- even the appearance of wealth. Image is everything.

At least that's this city dweller's jaded view of things.

Regards, Bill

P.S. The warrant for my arrest was dropped once the media picked up on the story.

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