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10 Story, 150 unit condo tower planned for GR


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Condo high-rise touted for downtown

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

By Chris Knape

The Grand Rapids Press

Downtown Grand Rapids would get a major new anchor with a 10-story condominium tower being planned for the site of the vacant Junior Achievement building.

The $32 million Park Place building would bring 150 high-end condominiums to the center of downtown, creating a new landmark at the southeast end of the once-moribund Monroe Center corridor.

Property owner Bob Tol, architect Vernon Ohlman and real estate agent Ray Kisor are spearheading the effort to get the project off the ground at the southeastern corner of Division Avenue and Fulton Street.

Ohlman designed the building with a traditional European flair, with plans calling for a brick veneer, a distinctive sloped roof, chimneys and rooftop gardens.

A 172-space parking ramp would be incorporated into the lower two floors of the building, along with 10,000 square feet of retail space.

"That's a key entry point into downtown and has been a vacant facility for a long time. So something of this kind of quality, of this kind of magnitude, is just what we need there," said Susan Shannon, economic development director for the city.

Condos would range in price from $300,000 to more than $1 million for a penthouse with a rooftop garden -- making them among the most expensive residences in the city.

Ohlman, chairman and senior designer at Design Plus in Grand Rapids, said the building will target empty-nesters and professionals who want to live in an urban environment.

Its proximity to downtown hospitals, restaurants, theaters, parks and the arena are key selling points, he said.

"This is for those that want to live in a location that allows them to live, work and play," Ohlman said.

The building would include an enclosed courtyard, indoor pool, concierge and doorman.

Ground-floor retail tenants may include a drug store, book shop, coffee shop and boutiques.

The project is not a sure thing.

The partners said they have not secured construction financing, but have several interested investors who may help fund it.

They also need to win the approval of the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission to demolish the Junior Achievement building, which is in the Heartside Historic District.

Park Place also would encompass a parking lot between Sheldon Avenue and the Junior Achievement building owned by Tol.

The partners plan to apply to include the site in the city's Brownfield plan, a move that could make it eligible for tax incentives as an obsolete property.

Groundbreaking could take place in fall of 2006 with construction lasting about 20 months.

The Park Place project is the latest in a series of major new developments planned for downtown.

Across Division to the west, the city is demolishing the former City Centre parking ramp and preparing to receive proposals for how that site might be redeveloped.

Earlier this month, a development company owned by Alticor Inc. co-founder Rich DeVos announced plans to partner with a Lansing company to develop three or four medical office towers along Michigan Street.

In August, Second Story properties announced plans for another 40-plus upscale condominium development at the downtown YMCA building.

More than 52 condominiums and apartments are being planned on the upper floors of a series of buildings along two blocks of Monroe Center.

One block south on Division, a stretch of buildings are slated to be renovated as housing and studio space for artists.

Second Story President Sam Cummings said Park Place could put the downtown market at or above its saturation point, but he welcomes the competition.

"As a developer, the competition certainly adds another facet to how we might market things," Cummings said. "As a Grand Rapidian, I'm thrilled with more options for the downtown."

The announcement of Park Place comes on the heels of a downtown housing study that showed the market for 350 new housing units per year over the next five years.

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