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Developer to remake school into condos

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Developer to remake school into condos

Friday, September 24, 2004

By Morgan Jarema

The Grand Rapids Press

A former high school, then middle school building on Grand Rapids' Northwest Side is on its way to yet another incarnation, this time as condominiums.

Planning commissioners Thursday voted 8-1 to approve a zoning change from industrial to "planned redevelopment district" so developer Jon Rooks, owner of Parkland Properties, can convert the former West Middle School into 140 condominiums.

Rooks has agreed to pay Grand Rapids Public Schools $1.5 million for the 92-year-old building at 615 Turner Ave. NW, which is in a Renaissance Zone and is eligible for local and state tax credits.

Commissioner Peter Carlberg cast the sole "no" vote over concerns that the 144-space parking lot proposed for across Broadway Avenue doesn't fit into the residential neighborhood.

"I would very much support the project, but I'm having trouble with the (parking) details)," Carlberg said.

No city residents showed up to speak about the proposal at Thursday's public hearing, but the West Grand Neighborhood Association, located just north of the proposed development, submitted a letter in support of the project.

Commissioners did place conditions on their recommendation for rezoning. They include a pedestrian crossing from the building's main entrance to the parking lot that is better marked than what was proposed; the addition of landscaping on the northwest portion of the parking lot; and modifications to garages in the parking lot to better match the exterior of the residential building.

Rooks is involved in two other downtown Renaissance Zone properties. His company is renovating the former Peoples Building, 50 Monroe Center, for mixed use featuring condominiums on its upper floors.

He also helped redevelop Monroe Terrace, 600 Monroe Ave. NW, a factory-turned-condo building where he lives.

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